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How to Pump Up Your Over-40 Metabolism

woman with hand weights
Brunilda Nazario, MD - Blogs
By Brunilda Nazario, MDBoard-certified internist and endocrinologistAugust 20, 2018
From the WebMD Archives

Aging is inevitable, but how you age is up to you.

As women, we got the short end of the stick; for us this ‘aging thing’ starts in our 30’s. Not only do we start to lose bone and reproductive ability, we also lose muscle. And since muscle burns calories, losing muscle means we more easily gain weight.

And then, to make matters worse, our obsession with dieting – in an effort to lose that extra weight – can lead to more muscle loss.

If you want to break this vicious cycle and actually change the way your body is working, you’ll need to try something different. Here’s what I’m doing and why:

  • I’ve reduced the amount of cardio I’m doing. Like dieting, sticking to only cardio makes for more muscle loss. Don’t get me wrong, cardio improves your fitness, but cardio alone won’t boost your metabolism or keep you strong.
  • I’m doing more weight training. Muscle burns more calories than fat – even when you’re at rest. So, when I build muscle, I’m boosting my metabolism and setting myself up to burn more calories throughout the day and not just at the gym.

Here is why: The old rule of 30 minutes of cardio on most days of the week is fine, but how you spend the rest of your day also matters and impacts your weight.

Think of your body as a motor. Thirty minutes of cardio exercise won’t compensate for a day of inactivity when you’re running idle. Adding muscle from strength training will help keep you running at a higher pace, burning more calories, even at rest.

Here are some tips to start:

  • If you can, start with a trainer. Or you can go with a training app like Nike or other fitness apps to guide you and reduce your risk of injury.
  • The weight room can be scary, but try not to be intimated. After all, lifting weights is about challenging your muscles to the point of failure. In the end, weightlifting boosts confidence.
  • If you’re new to strength training, start with 2 days a week and have at least one day of recovery in between them. Your workout should target a different body part on these days. Add a third day after 2-3 weeks and build from there.
  • Have a workout plan in mind before you get to the gym and start with 15 minutes of stretching. You can start with resistant bands and build up to dumbbells and then barbells.
  • Start by choosing a weight you can lift 10 to 12 times for 2 to 3 sets. Typically, its 5 to 15 pounds.
  • Modifying your workout every couple of weeks, with small incremental weights when it feels easy to lift, to ensure you are leveling up and progressing.
  • Add protein after your workout for recovery.
  • Listen to your body when it’s time to rest.

If you’ve just never imagined yourself lifting weights, or if you’re concerned that weight training might make you look too “muscle-y,” don’t be afraid to jump in. You don’t have to be a bodybuilder to do weight training (I’m certainly not – I still do ‘girl pushups’!), and doing basic weight training won’t turn you into one, either.

For me it’s about staying healthy – and as I’ve toned up, I’ve lost some weight and feel stronger, fitter, and more confident.

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About the Author
Brunilda Nazario, MD

Brunilda Nazario, MD, is the Lead Medical Director at WebMD and is responsible for reviewing WebMD content and ensuring its accuracy, timeliness, and credibility. She is a board certified Internist and Endocrinologist, she is also certified in Advanced Diabetes Management. Upon completion of a certification in bariatric medicine, Dr Nazario is now a Diplomate for the American Board of Obesity Medicine.

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