How does exercise impact metabolism?
For the purpose of this article, we’ll think of “activity” and “exercise” as separate activities. Activity can be defined as natural movement that is part of our activities of daily living (moving the lawn, cleaning the house, walking to the mailbox, walking around during our errands, shopping, etc.). Exercise is defined as structured and intentional movement at a higher intensity and purpose than our usual activities. Examples: Lifting weights, running or brisk walking, aerobics classes, Yoga or other.
We impact our metabolism (energy used/needed) with exercise in three ways:
1. Calories burned during the workout session.
This is what we see in our workout summary on our fitness trackers. How many calories did I use? What was my average heart rate? How hard did I work? Etc. The very act of exercise causes us to consume more calories than if we didn’t do it. This is the obvious part of the story, right? Of course we exercise to burn calories, but there is more. (Of course!)
2. Calories burned immediately after your workout session.
This is the “after burn” – the phenomenon known as EPOC or Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption. When we workout hard enough to reach an anaerobic state, the body requires more time and energy to “recover” and restore back to a steady state. This means more energy burned after the workout is over. At least there is a bonus to super tough workouts! A typical HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout will deliver these benefits. The drawback is, many of us don’t like pushing so hard or have physical limitations that prevent us from working out at this level. If you are up for it – great!
3. Muscle built during workouts.
- This is the exciting part. When we build muscle, we use more calories in general. According to Johnstone, et al. (2005), muscle is 5 times more metabolically active than fat. This means that if you build more muscle, your body will need more calories or energy to just maintain those muscle cells. Strong people can consume more calories and maintain a healthy weight. Lifting weights, doing weight-bearing activities and keeping fit allows you more flexibility with your eating. Finally some good news!
- Think of muscle building as a weight maintenance strategy. Investing dedicated time each week to build muscle will reap rewards over time as you build a more robust metabolism. Not only will you have an easier time maintaining a healthy weight, you might find your shape change and inches lost as your body adjusts to your new svelte self.
- The good news is that strength training is accessible for everyone. You can lift weights or use your body weight to generate strength without high impact (jumping), or uncomfortable cardio.
Ready to get started? Try Flostate’s Total Body Strength Circuit (30 min) or Sunrise Strength & Stretch (30 min) class formats. Commit to 2-3 strength workouts each week and make an investment in your health that will pay dividends in the future!