Raising your metabolic rate is important because people with higher metabolic rates burn more calories when they’re not exercising than people with lower metabolic rates. Long-term exercise programs raise your metabolic rate by increasing your muscle mass. In addition, exercising out of water raises your metabolic rate even more during the 18 hours after a workout because it increases your body temperature. Swimming doesn’t have the same effect because water conducts heats away from your body.
Your metabolic rate measures how quickly you burn calories, a measurement of energy. Inactive people have slower metabolic rates. A completely sedentary adult woman, for example, has a metabolic rate of about 1,100 calories per day, according to the textbook “Essentials for Health and Wellness.” A completely sedentary adult man has a metabolic rate of about 1,300 calories per day because men’s muscle mass percentage is about twice as high as women’s. Muscle burns calories faster than fat, and heavier people have a higher metabolic rate. The average man’s metabolic rate is 5 to 10 percent faster than the average woman of the same weight, according to the textbook “An Invitation to Health.”
Exercise vs. Diet
Exercising is a better way of losing weight than dieting because of its superior effect on the metabolic rate. Losing 1 pound requires burning 3,500 calories more than you eat. On the surface, that means eating 500 fewer calories per day for one week will have the same effect as burning 500 more calories via exercising every day for one week. It doesn’t work that way, however. Eating less without exercising will cause you to lose fat and muscle. When you lose muscle, your metabolic rate will slow down. Exercising will have the opposite effect. Consequently, people who exercise will burn more calories working at their desks, watching television and doing any other activity than people who diet but don’t exercise.
Types of Exercises
Calorie-burning charts rank swimming as one of the best weight-loss exercises, but they don’t factor in metabolic rates. Swimming vigorously, bicycling 14 to 15.9 mph and running 6 mph all burn 744 calories per hour in 155-pound people, according to the “Harvard Heart Letter.” However, swimmers burn fewer calories than bicyclists and runners in the 18 hours after a workout because their body temperatures are lower. Swimmers’ metabolic rates are high while they’re exercising, but they return to pre-workout levels after the workout, according to “The Merck Manual Home Health Handbook.” In addition, bicyclists’ and runners’ long-term metabolic rates rise more than swimmers’ long-term metabolic rates because bicycling and running are better muscle-building exercises.
Two 30-minute workouts daily could help you lose more weight than one 60-minute workout daily because the two workouts keep your metabolic rate high for more hours than the one workout. In fact, “The Complete Guide to Walking for Health, Weight Loss, and Fitness” author Mark Fenton recommends that people with weight problems take several shorter walks rather than one long walk even when the sum of the shorter distances equals the longer distance.
- The Merck Manual of Medical Information
- An Invitation to Health; Dianne Hales
- Essentials for Health and Wellness; Gordon Edlin and Eric Golanty
- The Complete Guide to Walking for Health, Weight Loss, and Fitness; Mark Fenton
- Harvard Heart Letter: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- The Merck Manual Home Health Handbook: Choosing the Right Exercise
Jay Schwartz has had articles printed by the "Chicago Tribune," "USA Today" and many other publications since 1983. He's covered health, fitness, nutrition, business, real estate, government, features, sports and more. A Lafayette, Pa. college graduate, he's also written for several Fortune 500 corporate publications and produced business newsletters.