The Metabolic Exercise: The Swiss Army Knife Of Staying Healthy Longer

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Dig deep into the concept of metabolic exercise and how it helps promote weight loss, burn calories, and build muscle.

RELATED: Youthful Metabolism

In this article:

  1. Interval Training Tip
  2. How to Do the Metabolic Workout
  3. When Basal Metabolic Rate Changes
  4. Metabolism Primer
  5. How Exercise Can Repair an Inefficient Metabolism
  6. A Metabolic Exercise Program Keeps You Young
  7. Exercise Your Legs, – Benefit Your Brain
  8. Metabolic Maneuvering
  9. Metabolic Exercise Benefits Beyond Weight Loss and Calorie Burn
  10. Diet and Exercise Should Always Go Together

Understand Metabolic Exercise for a More Effective Fat-Burning Workout

Interval Training Tip

What’s metabolic exercise? Sparked by an age-old quest for the most efficient exercise regime comes new research that indicates your workout may require less time than previously thought.

Swallow your too-busy-for-exercise excuses and read up on some research that supports the benefits of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). High-intensity interval training is characterized by intermittent periods of work and rest.

It may include bouts lasting seconds to minutes. Studies have shown that sessions of high-intensity exercise can be as effective, physiologically, as longer periods of prolonged endurance exercise.

Exercise physiologists now believe that interval training (Wright and Perricelli 2008) is one of the most effective ways to exercise at a high-enough intensity to significantly increase oxygen demands and ultimately boost metabolism.

Again, interval training consists of short bursts of going all out followed by brief periods of recovery.

How to Do the Metabolic Workout

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A May 2013 New York Times article helps provide guidelines to the latest exercise research. The “7-minute workout” consists of 12 different exercises that emphasize different muscle groups.

In the article, Chris Jordan, the director of exercise physiology at the Human Performance Institute in Orlando, Fla., explains that “those seven minutes should be, in a word, unpleasant. The upside is, after seven minutes, you’re done.”

However, it’s important to note that high-intensity interval training does not have to be the type of high-impact aerobics that may cause injury.

Not surprisingly, the trend has caught on like wildfire. There are online programs and smartphone apps that can keep track of the timing.

When Basal Metabolic Rate Changes

“Oh, I wish I still had her metabolism,” laments a middle-aged mother while watching her slim teenage daughter enjoy her second helping of calorie-laden pasta.

Without cracking a single scientific journal, this woman understands all too well her body burns calories much differently than it did three decades ago. Indeed, scientists have plenty of compelling statistics to support this notion.

As early as age 25, everyone’s metabolism starts to slow down at a rate of 1–2% (or more) a year. That means by age 60, your metabolic rate has slowed by at least 40%.

The good news is there is substantial scientific research suggesting that exercise may help “fix” a stalled metabolism. However, before we discuss this repair method, let’s get a better understanding of how the metabolic process should optimally work.

Metabolism Primer

Think of a fast metabolism as the blue flame from a hot furnace that quickly and cleanly burns through fuel (calories). A slow and inefficient metabolism smolders and produces a lot of smoke but doesn’t burn as much fuel or get very hot.

Essentially, metabolism is a collection of mitochondria. These are the spark plugs of the cells that are responsible for metabolism.

The greater the activity of the cell, the more mitochondria it has. For instance, the energy needs of skin cells are the lowest while the heart has as many as 5,000 mitochondria per cell.

Regardless of their location, when these little dynamos aren’t operating cleanly and efficiently, it impedes your metabolism, resulting in energy slow down throughout your body.

This, in turn, puts you at risk for a host of illnesses and diseases of aging.

How Exercise Can Repair an Inefficient Metabolism

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It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that exercise helps your metabolism, but you may be interested to know why.

Aside from burning calories from the food we eat on a daily basis, exercise normalizes our metabolism by establishing balance.

Our bodies seek an economy of scale in which certain aspects of physiological strength, capacity, endurance, and speed are forfeited when they aren’t regularly called upon. In other words: “use it or lose it.”

Similar to a motion-activated light, our physiological and metabolic economy turns off when not in use. It only turns on with added function if called upon later.

The mitochondrion is the arbiter of all cellular energy and fuels the sum of catabolic (breakdown) and anabolic (building) functions in our cells, which we collectively refer to as metabolism.

Ultimately, our mitochondrial population and competence are subject to the same “use it or lose it” credo as every other physiological system in our bodies. Left untrained, the mitochondria reduces in population, size, and efficiency.

A vast body of research reveals that exercise dramatically increases the population of mitochondria in our cells, especially in the heart, nervous system, and skeletal muscles.

Perhaps as important, exercise increases the energy output of mitochondria, which translates into efficient fat burning and fewer damaging free radicals. Lastly, exercise has been found to stimulate the turnover of mitochondria, constantly building new and more efficient mitochondria.

A Metabolic Exercise Program Keeps You Young

A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that regular aerobic exercise can decrease biological age by 10 years or more.

Another study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology explored the topic further. It determined that one of the ways aerobic exercise decreases biological age is by improving mitochondrial function aka metabolism.

In a nutshell, activity level correlates with improved mitochondrial function and, in turn, metabolism. The more effort a person puts into exercise, the greater the metabolism changes.

Exercise has been found to increase the population of mitochondria in your cells and repair their sluggish energy output. Importantly, there is also an increase of turnover of mitochondria, the constant building of new and more efficient mitochondria.

Exercise Your Legs, Benefit Your Brain

As discussed earlier, scientists now believe that exercise stimulates the growth of new healthy mitochondria, and in turn a more efficient metabolism, over time.

This news has far-reaching implications. It’s not just your body that benefits.

Recent technological advances such as genetic microarray chips and sophisticated microscopes have allowed researchers to identify the molecules in the body that support growth of mitochondria and youthfulness.

They are thus able to identify many of the specific cellular effects of exercise—especially in large muscles.

Scientists now believe the primary molecule in the body that stimulates growth of mitochondria—PGC-1alpha—is activated by exercise. This “exercise molecule” activates the growth of new mitochondria.

Therefore, even older people may enjoy certain aspects of youth, such as strong muscles, endurance, and brainpower.

When you exercise your legs, for example, PGC-1 alpha is stimulated all over your body. That means that by exercising one part of your body, you can build up the mitochondria all over your body, for example, in the brain.

Even older people can have youthfulness: strong muscles, endurance, brains, memory, and energy. People who exercise often look younger too.

RELATED: 3 Ways to Speed Up Your Metabolism

Metabolic Maneuvering

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To be sure, age and genetics both play into how efficiently one’s individual metabolism works. Still, a healthy metabolism’s trickiest adversary may be our modern lifestyles.

Sadly, our lives feature little to no exercise. Not exactly the best route to a humming metabolism.

Fortunately, there are some simple scientifically proven changes you can make to your lifestyle. If you don’t exercise already, there is no time like the present to start.

To up your metabolic game even more, consider interval training. It has been found to be as effective as longer workouts.

In the coming months, the Juvenon Health Journal will explore other methods that can help jumpstart a slow metabolic process. Remember, a slow metabolism is not terminal, but it can become permanent if left unchecked.

If you are new to exercise, discuss your get-moving plan first with a trusted healthcare professional.

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Metabolic Exercise Benefits Beyond Weight Loss and Calorie Burn

With an efficient energy metabolism, you can lose weight regardless of your age. That’s not the only good news.

Metabolic exercise offers other health benefits that can make you even more youthful and extend your life:

1. Abdominal Fat Loss

As mentioned, one of the body’s goals is to maintain homeostasis or balance. That goes into energy metabolism as well.

For people with obesity, the amount of energy they release tends to be lower than what they have. The reason goes beyond the number of calories the person consumes.

It may also be due to factors such as stress, age, and genes. A sedentary lifestyle and sleep deprivation can also contribute.

Either way, exercise increases energy expenditure. It’s only a question of what metabolic exercise training to do:

  • Endurance training improves aerobic capacity. Examples are running a marathon or swimming.
  • Strength training promotes the growth of the skeletal muscles, strength, and power against an external force. It can be different types of planks.
  • Weight training is a kind of strength training that uses weights such as dumbbells and barbells.
  • Resistance training is a metabolic exercise training that is similar to a strength workout. A resistance exercise, like a push-up, stimulates muscle contraction that helps increase its mass.

2019 research suggests that endurance, resistance, and HIIT are the most effective options for managing obesity.

An earlier study, though, cited how HIIT may have higher metabolism efficiency than endurance training. The metabolic exercise reduces the total fat deposits, including visceral or abdominal fat.

Compared to subcutaneous fat, visceral fat accumulates in the abdomen. Research showed it can significantly increase the risk of metabolic syndrome because it can also secrete hormones.

Metabolic Syndrome Definition: A group of biological or metabolic abnormalities that raises the chances of developing chronic diseases

2. Insulin Resistance and Management of Diabetes

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One of the hallmarks of metabolic syndrome is insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, which the cells need to do their work.

Its role is to regulate blood sugar levels by acting as a key that prompts the cells to open themselves and take glucose.

Factors such as lack of physical activity, obesity, and genetics can affect this process. At some point, the cells become less sensitive to insulin, and the person develops insulin resistance.

During insulin resistance, the cells do not respond to hormones well. As blood sugar levels continue to rise, the body prompts the pancreas to produce more insulin.

This eventually damages the beta cells that manufacture them. Insulin resistance can then progress to type 2 diabetes.

A metabolic exercise such as HIIT can be an ideal addition to a diabetes management plan. In a 2017 study, the workout improved glucose metabolism in the muscles and insulin sensitivity.

A metabolic conditioning exercise may also convert white fat (or adipose tissue) to brown adipose tissue, which burns, not stores, energy. Some kinds of research found a link between an increase in brown fat and lower glucose level.

HIIT may also reduce high blood pressure or hypertension, which is common among diabetes patients. The disease can damage the blood vessels, preventing proper blood flow.

While this metabolic exercise can increase blood pressure for a short time, it softens the artery walls in the long term. It may even help protect the kidneys, which can experience damage due to hypertension.

Note: Before you do a metabolic exercise, see your doctor first. Make sure it’s safe for you to do.

You may also meet with an exercise physiologist, who can perform a metabolic testing. This is an exam that quantifies the number of calories you need to reach or maintain a particular weight.

Diet and Exercise Should Always Go Together

For effective weight management, exercise is a must. Metabolic exercise, however, is useless when you don’t pair it with diet.

For a lot of people, diet revolves around the quantity of food intake. That’s only a part of the bigger picture.

It also refers to the diversity of the food, the value you get from them, the vitamins and minerals they contain, and how they work out in your macronutrient and micronutrient needs.

For instance, B vitamins including biotin can boost your energy metabolism. Vitamin D regulates the immune system, which helps maintain homeostasis.

To truly maximize the effects of a metabolic exercise, you need to remove the restrictive definition of diet and focus on nutrition.

The problem is many Americans do not meet the dietary requirements for vitamins and minerals. Some may have genetic issues or other health problems that limit the kinds of food they eat or affect nutrient absorption.

Supplementation can help in this area. Juvenon Cellular Health Tablets, for example, targets the mitochondria, or the cell’s energy powerhouse, directly.

The secret to delaying aging lies in the mitochondria, which regulates your metabolism. Power it up with the right exercise and diet.

How do you improve your metabolism? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on February 19, 2014, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.