1. Understand the Benefits of Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise is essential to boosting your metabolism. Whether you play tennis, swim, run, or work out on the elliptical machine, it’s important to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week to keep your heart healthy and get in shape. Aerobic exercise causes your body to consume more oxygen as you breathe harder, and it trains the heart, blood vessels, and lungs to operate more efficiently, which, in turn, helps improve your metabolism.

To ensure that your aerobic exercise is effective, work a major muscle group, do it continuously for at least 20 minutes, and work harder than you would at rest. For example, turning a stroll into a fast walk, turning splashing in the pool into a five-lap race, or turning a neighborhood bike ride into a spinning class are all examples of regular activity becoming aerobic activity.

2. Choose Aerobic Exercise to Feel Great

Aerobic exercise does for the body what no other activity can because of a crucial process: the utilization of oxygen. You take in oxygen all the time just by breathing, of course. But when you participate in aerobic exercises, you take in greater amounts of oxygen, and it is delivered more deeply into the body because the heart, lungs, and muscles are working harder. Circulation increases, and with it, oxygen delivery. This is beneficial for your body and your metabolism, and it makes you feel great!

The body actually craves a higher aerobic level, and the workout actually improves the working of the body not only during exercise but also at rest. No other exercise makes us feel better.

3. Choose High-Octane Activities

If you want to lose weight, you need to select activities that will burn maximum calories. In general, light activities—cleaning your house, doing office work, or playing baseball or golf—burn 300 calories per hour for an average-size man and 240 for an average-size woman. Moderate activity—walking briskly, gardening, bicycling, dancing, or playing basketball— will burn 460 calories for men and 370 for women. Strenuous activity—jogging, playing football, or swimming—will burn 730 calories for men and 580 for women. Very strenuous activity—running, racquetball, or skiing—burns 920 calories for men and 740 for women.

Here is a chart that provides an idea of the variance in calories burned by activities. These calorie amounts are extremely approximate. Gender, age, ethnicity, muscle mass, and other individual characteristics have not been factored into these data. This chart is a way for you to clearly see the need for aerobic activities. For more accurate estimates, you can go to various websites and search for calories burned while exercising. Also, try www.healthstatus.com/calculate/cbc.

ActivityEstimated Calories Used
Bed rest, sleeping 60 per hour
Taking a shower 65 for 15 minutes
Eating a meal 70 per 30 minutes
Reading, watching TV 75 per hour
Sewing 80 per hour
Grocery shopping 90 per hour
Sexual intimacy 108 per hour
Brain work: computer, heavy concentrating 110 per hour
Playing fetch with your dog 115 per hour
Chasing after kids 120 per hour
Driving a vehicle 120 per hour
Busily cleaning house 130 per hour
Walking (moderate) 130 per hour
Horseback riding 130 per hour
Bicycling (6 mph) 135 per hour
Shopping at a mall 135 per hour
Bowling 145 per hour
Wrestling 180 for a 10–15 minute match
Heavy housework 230 per hour
Weeding a garden 230 per hour
Walking (2½ mph) 250 per hour
Playing golf/golf cart 250 per hour
Playing golf/carrying clubs 370 per hour
Softball, soccer, free-style swimming 260 per hour
Swimming 260 per hour
Skateboarding 275 per hour
Line dancing 280 per hour
Lawn mowing 295 per hour
Badminton, volleyball 340 per hour
Tennis, doubles 350 per hour
Martial arts 345 per hour
Water aerobics 360 per hour
Low-impact aerobic dance 385 per hour
Bicycling (12 mph) 385 per hour
Hiking, rock climbing, uphill 390 per hour
Dancing to rock and roll music 400 per hour
Competitive bowling 400 per hour
Step aerobics 400 per hour
Power walking (4½ mph) 400 per hour
Spinning class in a gym 440 per hour
High-impact aerobic dance 440 per hour
Football, hockey, basketball 460 per hour
Jump rope, continuous 480 per hour
Cross-country ski machine 500 per hour
Tennis, singles 510 per hour
Bicycling (12–14 mph) 530 per hour
Circuit weight training 540 per hour
Stair climbing in a gym 600 per hour
Jogging 600 per hour
Squash 650 per hour
Running (10 mph) 700 per hour
Athletic swimming 700 per hour
Cross-country skiing 700 per hour
Biking (14 mph) 700 per hour
Racquetball 700 per hour
Elliptical rider or rowing machine 850 per hour

Source: Adapted from a list compiled by Helen Ann, public health educator, using various health education resources including Utah State University textbooks.

4. Increase Your Workout Intensity

Moderate-intensity exercise gets your heart pumping, but not in an overly stressful, breathless way. This kind of exercise helps you develop endurance. High-intensity exercise is tough; you breathe heavily and are overloading your heart and muscles. You need a mixture of both kinds of intensity to stay fit. When you push your intensity levels, your body responds by becoming stronger and burning more calories.

To improve your fitness level, you need to work your body harder than it is used to working, which means you need to overload or increase the intensity and/or duration of your exercise regimen. Research has found that your body adapts to the stress of working harder by becoming stronger. For example, if you walk 2 miles five days a week, eventually walking those 2 miles will get easier, and you’ll be able to work longer or faster or both. Your heart becomes stronger and more efficient using this overload principle, but you can also apply this principle to the other components of physical fitness, including muscle strength, muscle endurance, and flexibility.

By systematically overloading your muscles in both strength and endurance (lifting more weight or lifting weight for longer), as well as in flexibility (stretching further and more extensively), you will also be able to make gains in those fitness elements. Lifting weights and stretching in a regular strengthening program allows you to create a body that is more capable and fitter than it was before. The harder you exercise, the higher the levels of both fat and sugar that you’ll burn. If you want to lose weight, burn off fat, and boost your metabolism, you’ll need to gradually work your way up to more intense levels of exercise.

5. Increase Your RPM

Revolutions per minute (RPM) are measured as cadences on many car-dio exercise machines. Typically, you have a choice of keeping your RPM low and increasing the resistance, which means you row or bike at a slower pace but face greater resistance, or increasing your RPM and lowering the resistance. Both are actually good for you, but if you want to burn more fat calories and keep your metabolic rate higher for a longer period, research has shown that high RPM with low-to-moderate resistance is more effective.

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