Boost Metabolism with Exercise

Metabolism-Boosting Weight Loss Plans

Double your weight loss this month with our metabolism-revving plan that burns an extra 500 calories a day

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Is your wardrobe suddenly shrinking? If you're over 40, it's probably not your clothing (or an overactive dryer) but, rather, an underactive metabolism that's to blame. It can dip by as much as 200 calories per day from your mid-20s to your mid-50s—enough to pack on nearly an extra 30 pounds in that time. And that old weight loss strategy of crash dieting will just make it worse. What you need is a smarter approach to losing fat while building muscle, which powers your calorie burn and is key to reversing a slow metabolism. We combed through the very latest research and talked to top experts to create our Ultimate Over-40 Fat-Fighting Workout. It's a unique blend of calorie-blasting cardio, supercharged strength-training, and lifestyle tips that will help you burn calories at a higher rate (even while you're sleeping) than you did in your 20s—up to an extra 500 calories a day! That's enough to double your weight loss and drop a size this month. Soon, your only wardrobe worry will be buying smaller sizes.

The latest research shows that simple changes to your cardio workouts can boost calorie burn by 25 to 50%. Our weight loss routines include these 4 rules to guarantee a high calorie burn with every workout.

Video: Try our quick living room workout!

Always warm up
It raises your core body temperature and increases the activity of fat-burning enzymes, says Chip Harrison, exercise physiologist, director of strength and fitness at Pennsylvania State University, and coauthor of The Female Athlete. For each degree your body temp goes up, the metabolic rate inside your cells increases by about 13%. Warm up by doing your activity at an easy to moderate intensity for at least 5 minutes to gradually raise your heart rate, send blood to your working muscles, ramp up your respiration, and get the maximum boost in metabolism and calorie burn.

Do at least 12 minutes
Any amount of cardio will burn calories, but to really fight off post-40 pounds, you need at least 12 minutes (beyond a warm-up) of continuously moderate to high-intensity activity (where you're breathing somewhat hard) most days a week. That's the amount necessary to "create a training effect, which improves your body's ability to use oxygen and generate more fat-burning enzymes, such as lipase, so you can blast more flab during exercise and other activities all day," says Harrison.

Commit to intervals
Studies show that weight loss plans with bursts of high-intensity activity can boost your calorie burn more than steady-paced training. "Interval training increases the mitochondrial activity in the muscle, which is a scientific way of saying it increases your cells' fat-burning capacity," says exercise physiologist Jason Talanian, PhD, formerly of the University of Guelph, Ontario.

Because intervals are harder than one-speed workouts, it takes more time for your body to return to normal afterward, so your metabolism stays elevated longer. In a College of New Jersey study of 48 men and women, researchers found that those who rode stationary bikes at varying intensities, such as pedaling just a little harder for 5 minutes and then a little easier for 5 minutes over a half-hour workout, burned about 15% more calories for about 30 minutes after their sessions than their peers who stuck to one moderate pace the entire time.

Devote 1 hour once a week
Going longer gives you a big metabolic boost because your body has to reach into its reserves and expend a lot of energy replenishing its fuel stores and repairing broken-down muscle fibers when you're finished. In one small study, researchers at the University of Victoria in British Columbia found that exercisers who chugged along for 60 minutes burned nearly 5 times as many calories postworkout as those who did only 30 minutes of activity.

10 Ways to ignite the calorie burn

Program at a glance:
Cardio
You'll walk or do aerobic exercise such as jogging, swimming, or cycling every day, alternating 3 different routines to maximize fat burn. Bend your elbows 90 degrees and pump your arms as you walk. It not only automatically speeds up your pace but helps you burn up to 15% more calories every time you work out.

3 times a week: 30-Minute Interval Fat Blast
Alternate 2-minute bursts of high-intensity activity with 2-minute bouts of moderate intensity to boost calorie burn during and after exercise.

3 times a week: 20-Minute Steady Cardio
After a 5-minute warm-up, exercise at a pace that keeps your heart rate in an aerobic zone (where you're breathing somewhat hard) for 12 minutes, then slow your pace for 3 minutes to cool down. You'll burn extra calories while allowing your body to recover from the more intense interval days.

1 time a week: 60-Minute Endurance Builder
Warm up for 5 minutes, then increase to a moderate intensity for the rest of the workout. Going longer will crank up your postexercise calorie burn and increase stamina so all your workouts feel easier.

28 days to a healthier heart

Strength
Strength-training is essential—lean muscle tissue burns about 3 times as many calories as fat and is the power behind your metabolism. But how you do it can speed your calorie burn by up to an extra 25%.

3 times a week: On days you do the steady cardio workout, you'll also do our 20-minute high-energy dumbbell routine to build more metabolism-stoking muscle and firm up all over.

Break up your sets
Instead of performing 2 or 3 sets of a single exercise before moving to the next one, do a circuit: Complete just 1 set and then immediately move to the next exercise, repeating the circuit 2 or 3 times. When researchers had 10 men do either standard strength-training (3 sets of 6 exercises with 2 minutes of rest in between) or circuit-training (moving through a series of 6 exercises 3 times, with 30 seconds of rest in between), the circuit-trainers burned nearly twice as many calories postworkout as the standard-style lifters. "Because your heart rate stays elevated longer after circuit-training, you continue burning fat as though you were still exercising," says researcher Anthony Caterisano, PhD, of Furman University.

Grab the heavy dumbbells
Even when exercisers lifted identical volumes (such as 10 pounds 10 times or 20 pounds 5 times), those using the heavier dumbbells burned about 25% more calories when they were finished. "Heavy weights create more protein breakdown in the muscle, so your body has to use more energy to repair and recover—that's how lean muscle tissue is built," says Caterisano. And the boost can last even longer. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine found that working out with heavy weights even for as few as 3 to 6 reps increased exercisers' sleeping metabolic rate—the number of calories burned overnight--by nearly 8%. That's enough to lose about 5 pounds in a year, even if you did nothing else.

Lose 35 pounds without working out

30-Minute Interval Fat Blast
This workout is the first portion of our 3-part metabolism-boosting cardio plan. Choose your favorite form of aerobic exercise, such as walking, cycling, or swimming—just be sure to pay attention to the changes in workout intensity, which is key to reaping the full benefits.

Time
Activity Intensity*
0:00 Warm-up 3, working up to 6 (rhythmic breathing; can speak easily)
5:00
Brisk pace 7 to 8 (harder breathing; can speak in very short sentences only)
8:00 Moderate pace 5 to 6 (breathing somewhat hard; can speak in full sentences)
10:00 Fast pace
9 (no speaking; just hard but controlled breathing)
12:00   Do 2-minute moderate and 2-minute fast intervals 3 more times
24:00 Moderate pace
5 to 6
26:00 Brisk pace 7 to 8
28:00 Cool down Work down to a 3
30:00 Finished

*Based on a 1-to-10 scale, with 1 being as easy as lounging on the couch and 10 as hard as sprinting to catch a bus as it pulls away

Find out more ways how to walk off weight!

The Strength Circuit
What to Do: Complete the circuit 3 times, moving immediately from one exercise to the next with minimal to no rest between moves. The first time through, do 8 to 12 reps of each move with a lighter weight as a warm-up. For the second and third sets, use an amount that you're able to lift no more than 8 to 10 times.

How often: 3 nonconsecutive days a week, preferably when you do the Steady Cardio workouts

What you'll need: 1 pair of light weights (5 to 10 pounds), 1 set of heavier dumbbells (10 to 15 pounds; for some exercises, you may need even heavier weights), stability ball (optional)

Step Squat
Firms glutes and thighs
Hold dumbbells at sides, palms in, and stand with a low step about 2 feet behind you. Extend left leg behind you and place top of foot on step. Bend right leg and lower hips, keeping front knee behind toes, until right thigh is about parallel to floor. Return to start. Complete a full set, then switch sides.

Plank Row
Firms shoulders, back, and abs
Hold a dumbbell in each hand and assume a modified push-up position (hands beneath shoulders, knees on floor, ankles crossed in air). Keeping torso steady, bend left elbow and pull dumbbell up toward rib cage. Lower and repeat with right arm. Alternate arms for a full set. For a challenge, perform move with legs extended, balancing on toes.

Wall Sit Arm Curl
Firms arms, glutes, and thighs
Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing forward, and stand with back against wall. Slide down wall until legs are bent 90 degrees. Bend elbows and lift weights toward shoulders, then lower. Complete full set of arm curls before returning to standing position.

Ball Chest Press
Firms shoulders, chest, arms, and glutes
Holding dumbbells, lie on stability ball (head, shoulders, and upper back supported) so body forms a straight line (like a tabletop) from head to knees. Position weights at chest height, elbows pointing to sides, palms facing toes. Keeping torso steady, straighten arms and press weights toward ceiling. Lower weights. Repeat for a full set. No stability ball? Perform move off the edge of a bed, sofa, or deep-seated chair.

Pendulum Lunge
Firms glutes and thighs
Hold dumbbells at sides, palms in, and stand with feet close together. Take a giant step back with right leg, bend knees, and lower until left thigh is parallel to floor, keeping front knee behind toes (as shown). Press into left foot to stand back up and bring right leg forward, stepping into a front lunge. Continue stepping back and front for a full set with right leg, then repeat with left.

What are other fat-burning exercises?

Your 7-day Sample Schedule
Monday
Steady Cardio & Strength (40 minutes total)

Tuesday
Interval Fat Blast (30 minutes total)

Wednesday
Steady Cardio & Strength (40 minutes total)

Thursday
Interval Fat Blast (30 minutes total)

Friday
Steady Cardio & Strength (40 minutes total)

Saturday
Interval Fat Blast (30 minutes total)

Sunday
Endurance Builder (60 minutes total)

The Expert: Valerie Waters, a certified trainer in Brentwood, CA, and author of Red Carpet Ready, designed this workout.

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