The Physical Benefits of Exercise in Accelerating Your Metabolism

Exercise will speed up your metabolism, the harder you exercise, the more energy you use. Lying quietly in bed, a 150-pound person will burn about seventy-five calories an hour. even though the brain uses about 20 percent of the body's energy, mental work won't increase that significantly. So, alas, reading this book won't help you lose weight. In contrast, a top athlete can burn fourteen hundred calories in an hour of maximum exertion. Ordinary people, of course, may not work that hard, but reasonable exercise will increase your metabolic rate by four to six times, vigorous exercise by more. The most obvious metabolic benefit of usual exercise is weight control.

If you exercise regularly, you'll burn away body fat—but only if you use up more energy than you take in. The key to weight loss is a "C" word, but despite America's latest dietary fad, it's not carbs but calories. The math is simple but unyielding. To reduce, you must burn up more calories than you consume. In nearly every case, sustained weight control depends on eating less and exercising more. The more you exercise, the more wiggle room in your diet.

Exercise training will also improve your blood cholesterol profile. It will lower your LDL ("bad") cholesterol and boost your HDL ("good") cholesterol. Over time, walking just a mile a day will produce helpful gains, but the more you exercise, the more your HDL will rise. That's particularly important, since the marvelous statin drugs and most other medications that lower LDL levels are not very good at raising HDL levels. Most people can expect moderate exercise to boost their HDL levels by at least 5 percent, thus reducing the risk of heart attack by more than 15 percent. Exercise will also lower levels of triglycerides, a less dangerous but still important form of blood fat. A good diet and successful weight control will augment the beneficial effects of exercise. Healthy people should aim for an LDL level below 130 mg/dL, but people with other risk factors, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, should aim to get below 100 mg/dL, and people with active coronary artery disease should set their sights on 70 mg/dL or even less. The lower the better, but sharp reductions usually require medications in addition to diet and exercise. Men should try to boost their HDL levels above 40 mg/dL, women above 45 mg/dL, the higher mean the better.

Exercise also has positive effects on glucose (sugar) metabolism. It makes tissues more sensitive and responsive to insulin, the hormone that allows glucose to move from the blood into the body's cells, where it can be burned for energy. The result is a sharply lower risk of diabetes, a major health hazard that is rising at a worrisome rate in our sedentary, increasingly obese society. Pasting blood sugar levels of 100 mg/dL or less are considered normal, levels of 126 mg/dL or more indicate diabetes, and values between the two suggest an increased risk of developing diabetes.
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