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Can Cardio Boost Metabolism?

author image Paula Quinene
Paula Quinene is an Expert/Talent, Writer and Content Evaluator for Demand Media, with more than 1,500 articles published primarily in health, fitness and nutrition. She has been an avid weight trainer and runner since 1988. She has worked in the fitness industry since 1990. She graduated with a Bachelor's in exercise science from the University of Oregon and continues to train clients as an ACSM-Certified Health Fitness Specialist.
Can Cardio Boost Metabolism?
All forms of cardio, such as walking or running, immediately boost your metabolism. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images

All forms of cardio, such as walking or running, immediately boost your metabolism. It takes plenty of energy for your cells to catch up with the demands of working muscles. The number of calories you burn increases as you transition from a resting level of metabolism to an exercising rate of metabolism. Aerobic exercise can boost your metabolism for hours or even days after each session.

Frequency, Intensity, Duration and Mode

The four variables of cardiovascular training are the frequency of your sessions, the intensity of each session, the duration or length of time per session and the exact type of exercise performed. By altering one or two variables every time you do aerobic exercise, you increase your metabolism simply because you are forcing your muscle cells to respond to a slightly different stimulus or stress. Walking the same routes, at the same speed and for the same 20 minutes every day, does little to boost your metabolism. However, if you set the treadmill program for a different level of intensity and add 2 minutes to your duration for every session, you will boost your metabolism.

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Long-Duration, Low-Intensity Training

Long-duration, low-intensity workouts stimulate muscle-cell adaptations, which does increase metabolism if you maintain a regular exercise program. Long cardio sessions, lasting 30 minutes or more, increase the concentration of enzymes and cell structures that convert the energy in your food to energy that your cells can use, according to the authors of “Exercise Physiology, Energy, Nutrition & Human Performance.” These adaptations will revert back to the initial state once you stop exercising. Long, steady-state aerobics also make you into a better fat-burning machine. Include one long cardio workout, such as an hour walk or a run session, in your exercise program every week.

Short-Duration, High-Intensity Training

Short-duration, high-intensity workouts -- known as high-intensity interval training -- raise your metabolism more than any other type of aerobic exercise. The increase in enzymes and cell structures occurs at a greater magnitude than in long-duration, low-intensity training. These workouts burn plenty of calories during the session and even more calories after the workout, according to a 2009 article published in “Strength and Conditioning Journal.” Complete a short-duration, high-intensity workout once per week. Try sprinting for 30 seconds, then walking for 90 seconds, and repeat the cycle for total of 20 minutes of exercise.

This form of cardio can put you at a greater risk of injury and illness. If you have health conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease, high-intensity intervals are not safe for you unless done in a medical fitness center under direct supervision.

Moderate-Duration, Mixed-Intensity Training

Moderate-duration, mixed-intensity training falls between long and short workouts. These sessions help you to increase the intensity that you can perform during long-duration workouts, while keeping you fit enough to perform short, high-intensity ones. You enhance your metabolism during and after each session. Perform one to two moderate-duration routines, such as a 2-mile run at a challenging but doable pace, each week.

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  • Personal Trainer Manual; American Council on Exercise
  • Exercise Physiology, Energy, Nutrition & Human Performance; William McArdle, et al.
  • Strength and Conditioning Journal; High-Intensity Interval Training: Applications for General Fitness Training; Brad Schoenfeld, et al.
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