1. Understand Why You Need to Up the Ante

You already know that exercise is one big key to boosting metabolism. But, the bad news is that just engaging in aerobic exercise isn’t enough. This is because when you engage in aerobic exercise your body craves energy for fuel and sometimes this means dipping into muscle proteins to get it. The result is a loss in muscle mass. To prevent this from happening and to assure that you are losing fat not muscle, you need to strength-train—either against your own body weight or with weights— at least twice a week. This extra work will also help boost your metabolism because every extra pound of muscle you put on burns 35 calories each day; each pound of fat only burns 2 calories.

2. Strength-Train to Keep Those Metabolic Fires Burning

Eventually (if it hasn’t happened already) your metabolism will slow down and eating pints of ice cream will have an effect on your waistline. As you grow older, you start to lose muscle mass, which leads to a larger body fat percentage. To bring this down, you’ll need to incorporate strength training two to three times a week into your schedule to maintain your muscle mass and counteract the effects of aging so that you can keep your metabolism burning at an ideal rate.

Muscles require more energy (and also burn more calories) than fat cells.

3. Strength-Train for Overall Fitness

Aerobic activity is good, but to achieve total body fitness it’s important to develop your body in different areas. These include:

• Muscular fitness, strength, and endurance

• Flexibility

• Cardiovascular endurance

• Body composition

Body composition describes the percentages of fat, bone, and muscle within your body; acceptable levels of body fat differ between the genders. For instance, an acceptable body fat percentage for a female who is not a professional athlete is 21–24 percent while for men the range is 14–17 percent. To make sure that you are achieving total body fitness, and also helping prevent heart disease and adult-onset diabetes, it is important to add strength training to your workout schedule.

4. Know Your Health Risks Before Beginning

Before you begin a strength-training program, it’s important to see your doctor if you have a history of heart disease, diabetes, carpal tunnel syndrome, or high blood pressure, or you are over forty. Your doctor will recommend what level of activity is best for you so you can work out efficiently without putting your body in danger.

5. Slow Your Workout

When you work with weights, don’t rush the process. In fact, with every rep, count to three as you lower the weight back to the start position. Slowing things down increases the breakdown of muscle tissue, which may sound counterproductive, but it’s not. The muscle repair process that takes place following your workouts is what pumps up your metabolism for as long as 72 hours after your session. Don’t go too easy on yourself though! Make sure you use weights that are heavy enough to make those final few reps a real struggle.

6. Focus on Your Core Muscles

Your core muscles are the abdominal muscles that do the heavy lifting in your life. Strengthening your core muscles is essential to building a strong muscular system, which also improves your ability to burn calories quicker and more efficiently. The abdominals are comprised of the rectus abdominus, the obliques, and the transverse abdominus. The rectus abdominus runs from your rib cage past your belly button, down into your pubic crest. This muscle can be contracted by bringing your hips closer to your rib cage, as you do in regular crunches. The external and internal obliques run in a more diagonal pattern and are located on each side of the rectus abdominus. The obliques are responsible for trunk rotation (twisting) and lateral bending. The transverse abdominus is the deepest abdominal muscle. It is commonly referred to as a stabilizing belt for your trunk and spine. This muscle is not responsible for movement, but it is a vital component to lower back health. These muscles combine with those of the lower back to form what is commonly referred to as the core.

7. Strengthen Your Core

Activities like martial arts, dancing, soccer, gymnastics, swimming, boxing, and basketball all require you to engage your core regularly. All of these options force you to twist and bend at the waist a lot, which is great work for your core muscles. The elliptical machine and the stationary bicycle do not do as much to strengthen your core. When you plan out your exercise regime, make sure you include abdominal strength-training exercises for 5 to 20 minutes every other day. Your mission is to choose a variety of exercises that work each core muscle in a challenging way. Start slowly and progress to extremely challenging exercises. How will you know if a certain exercise is extremely challenging? Give it a try and you’ll find out. The exercises that you cannot already do will be the ones you should strive to accomplish.

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