Metabolism is the rate at which calories are converted from food to energy. BMR is the amount of calories burned with bodily functions. Your daily metabolic rate is based on the basal metabolic rate (BMR) and your activity levels. Additional calories are burned by maintaining an active lifestyle and following proper nutrition habits. Many factors affect your BMR, including aging. It is possible to offset the effects of aging on metabolism, even after age 50.
After age 30, physiological processes begin to decline, but it doesn't become obvious until after age 50. There are declines in the number of cells in each organ that reduce metabolic rates. Declines in muscle fibers and muscle fiber size result in a decreased amount of muscle mass. Declines in cardiac output and oxygen volume result in decreased cardiovascular endurance. As a result of the declines in muscle and cardiac output, there also may be an overall decline in physical activity. A less active body burns less calories, which slows down your metabolism -- about 5 percent per decade after age 30.
Increasing Your Metabolism With Weight Training
You can increase your metabolism to offset anticipated declines. Weight training after age 50 is effective in improving or maintaining muscle mass. Your workout plan should include all major upper body and lower body muscle groups. The upper body muscles include your chest, back, shoulders, biceps and triceps and exercises may include dumbbell chest presses and shoulder presses. Lower body muscles include your buttocks, quadriceps and hamstrings. Suggested exercises may include leg extensions and leg curls on selected resistance machines. When working out, perform one to two exercises for each muscle group, in one to two sets of 12 to 15 repetitions. Increasing your muscle mass improves your metabolism, as muscle cells use more energy than fat cells, even when you're sitting or sleeping.
Cardio Training and Metabolism
Weight-bearing cardio exercises such as walking and elliptical training improve not only your cardiovascular health, but also increase your metabolism. Elliptical training machines offer higher intensity movements that simulate jogging without the high-impact effect on your knees. Perform cardio training daily or every other day for 20 to 30 minutes, increasing to 60 minutes daily for the maximum benefits. The increased exercise intensity also increases the ability of your cardiovascular system to provide blood and oxygen to the working muscles. This results in an increase in your circulation and breathing, which improves your overall metabolic rate.
Nutrition and Metabolism
The frequency and amount of the food you eat affects how quickly the food is converted to energy. Skipping breakfast gets your metabolism off to a slow start. Eating large, infrequent meals may cause your metabolic rates to slow down, as if your body is in a starvation mode. Eating smaller, more frequent meals allows calories to be converted more quickly to energy and increases your metabolism. Proper nutrition habits include following Harvard University's healthy food plate, which recommends that one-half of your meal consist of fruits and non-starchy vegetables, one-quarter of low-fat protein sources and one-quarter of whole grains, brown rice and other complex carbohydrates.
Additional Factors That Affect Your Metabolism
Additional factors affecting metabolism are medications and nicotine. While nicotine increases metabolism, it is an unhealthy habit that can cause numerous health complications. Quitting smoking will temporarily lower your metabolism, but it's easily offset by increasing your daily cardio activities. Some medications, such as antidepressants, beta blockers and steroids, are believed to slow the metabolism. Each of these medications have an important function in your overall health; don't stop using your prescribed medicines. Instead, consult with your doctor about your concerns and the effects of your medications on your body. She may be able to adjust or change your prescriptions to help improve your metabolism.
- Personal Training Manual; American Council on Exercise
- Understanding Nutrition; Eleanor Whitney, et al.
- Keep Moving: Fitness Through Aerobics and Step; Esther Pryor & Minda Goodman Kraines
- Complete Food and Nutrition Guide; American Dietetic Association
- Harvard School of Public Health: Healthy Eating Plate and Healthy Eating Pyramid
- Fit Day: 3 Prescription Drugs That May Cause Weight Gain