Have you ever blamed weight gain or being overweight on a slow metabolism? Or just felt like no matter how little you eat, you cannot lose weight? Or, watched your thinner friends scarf down ice cream sundaes daily and never gain an ounce?
Metabolism does play a big role in our weight. Metabolism is the chemical process that your body uses to turn food (calories) into heat (energy). But, metabolism is not a static, luck-of-the-gene-pool characteristic like hair color or height. While you do inherit certain metabolic tendencies from your parents, metabolism is something you can have some control over. You can speed up your metabolism, and you can do so without taking drugs. You may not ever be able to have daily doses of hot fudge without putting on the pounds, but you don’t have to be reduced to a lifetime of celery sticks either.
If you are not currently involved in a fitness regime of some kind, just starting to take a daily walk will increase your metabolism. It does this in two ways: 1—it heats up your body and burns more calories than you would normally burn – both during and after the walk, and 2—it helps increase your lean muscle mass which burns more calories than fat.
If you are already a walker, you can also increase your metabolism more. All of these ways to increase metabolism with walking work on the same principle—changing things up so that you use and strengthen new muscles, use your muscles more, or burn more calories.
Your body (and thus, your metabolism) learns very quickly to do things efficiently. If you walk one mile every day, very soon, your body learns how to do that very well. When you body works efficiently, it burns fewer calories. So, by changing things up, your body doesn’t get a chance to streamline its processes based on your routine.
1—Increase your speed. Just walk a bit faster. Time yourself on your regular walk and try to cut one minute off your time this week. Then, reduce your time even more by walking just a little faster each time. Take more steps, but do not take bigger steps—you can hurt yourself if you do that.
2—Increase your distance. Add 10% to your distance each week. For instance, if you walk 2 miles, try walking 2 and 1/4 miles this week. Walk that distance for two or three weeks, then increase your time again. If you walk for time instead of distance, add ten minutes to your time. So, you’d walk for 40 minutes instead of 30 minutes.
3—Try intervals. Read this article on how: Adding Intervals to your Walks. There’s a funny Swedish word for this type of training – fartlek. So, do some fartlek walks.
4—Increase your effort. This is also discussed in the intervals article mentioned above, but you can use hills or the incline on a treadmill to work harder, too. Some people recommend adding weight such as with a walk vest or hand weights. I don’t recommend those techniques. I do recommend pumping your arms, though. And, if you move your arms faster, you’ll walk faster—try it!
There are other ways you can increase your metabolism, too. Common suggestions include eating more hot and spicy food, drinking ice water, and eating smaller meals every three hours. One of the most effective ways is to add strength training to your exercise program. The more lean muscle mass you have, the higher your metabolism. Walk or Lift Weights has more info on strength training for walkers.
So, in addition to all the great health benefits you get from walking, you can actually increase your metabolism while doing so.
For an excellent explanation of how metabolism works and several things you can do to boost it, I recommend "You: On A Diet: The Owner's Manual for Waist Management". Read my review of You on a Diet.
I also recommend Leslie Sansone’s DVDs for any walker. They are great for beginners and to have as a backup when you can’t walk outside or on a treadmill. Just 18 minutes with this DVD and you’re good to go.