The last several months were almost designed to deep six any energy and metabolism balance we may have had pre-pandemic – from extracurricular snacking as we social distanced to the sheer sedentary nature of being stuck in one space for so long without much choice in the matter. Proper sleeping habits were also thrown completely out of whack because of stress and restructuring, and everything in between. Gyms and fitness studios were closed, parks were ominous, and even walking the dog was fraught with anxieties we’d never experienced before.
Regular exercise will be an essential component to getting back to good, while boosting our energy and metabolism.
Metabolism is the process by which the body converts food into the energy that it needs to carry out day to day functions such as breathing, blood circulation, balancing hormones, and cell generation. The calories spent in performing these functions is what is known as the basal metabolic rate. Factors contributing to this rate include:
· Body size: Larger people with more muscle burn more calories at rest.
· Gender: Men tend to have less body fat and more muscle than women – resulting in more calories burned.
· Age: As we age, our muscle mass is reduced, and fat contributes to our weight to a larger degree – slowing our metabolic rate.
The digestion and absorption of food also requires calories, while physical exertion and movement take care of burning the rest.
We tend to blame weight gain on a slow metabolism, but the truth is that we all gain weight when we eat more calories than we burn. We lose weight when the opposite is true. A number of factors can contribute to this energy and metabolism imbalance, from the aforementioned loss of sleep to stress to bad eating choices, and so much more.
There’s not much we can do about our body’s pre-programmed basal metabolic rate. However, we can influence the number of calories we burn on a regular basis by adjusting our activity levels.
And that means exercise.
· Cardiovascular or aerobic workouts like biking, swimming, jogging and more are ideal for stoking those energy and metabolism fires. The more you get your blood pumping, the more calories you burn. The pros recommend at least 30 minutes a day – or more – in order to meet specific weight loss goals. If you’ve been using quarantine as an excuse to “sit this one (or two, or three) out,” it’s time to put your gym shoes back on – and get your legs and arms moving.
· Strength training, too, should be a part of your weekly routine. Alternate with cardio at least twice a week if not more. Weight training is critical, as it burns more calories per pound while toning your muscles. More lean muscle tissue = more calories burned. And it is paramount for helping to stave off age-related muscle loss.
· Extra credit: Believe it or not – every extra motion aids in the burning of calories. From pulling weeds to pushing a stroller to practicing karate, it all contributes. Find pockets of activity you can pull off throughout the day. Park at the other end of the lot when at the office or the grocery store and use those extra steps to your advantage. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Play ball with the kids. Play frisbee with the dog. Play hide and go seek with the cat (he won’t care, but it still counts.) In fact, it all counts.
· One quick note: Many people believe that our metabolism continues to burn calories long after a workout is over. That’s only partially true. Your metabolism ramps up while you’re in the midst of high-octane exercise as calories are being burned – but afterward, the process only lingers for about an hour.
The bottom line? Don’t overindulge after a workout hoping that your metabolism’s making up for that extra cookie. Instead, try to find a way to get a few extra workouts in, and you’ll be on your way to getting the most energy out of your metabolism.