Does Exercise Increase Metabolism?

3rd Mar 2023

Written by

Chris Nicklin is a certified Personal Trainer with over 7 years' experience, and the owner of Nxtep Personal Training. Chris qualified from Edge Hill University with a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree in Sports Coaching and Performance Development, and has delivered over ten thousand one-to-one Personal Training sessions.

Metabolism is the word to describe the chemical processes that occur within our bodies to keep us alive. These processes include the conversion of food into energy, the breakdown of toxins, and the synthesis of proteins and other molecules that our bodies need to function properly. It plays a critical role in our overall health and wellness, and it is closely linked to factors such as body composition, age, and genetics.

One way that we can promote a healthy metabolism is through exercise, as physical activity has been shown to increase metabolism in a variety of ways, as well as giving you numerous other health benefits. In this article, I will try to answer the question, “Does exercise increase metabolism?”, exploring the relationship between exercise and metabolism in detail, looking at the scientific evidence for how exercise affects our bodies and how we can maximize the benefits of exercise for our metabolism and overall health.

Understanding Metabolism

Before I dive into the specifics of how exercise affects metabolism, it’s important to understand what metabolism is and how it works. As mentioned, metabolism is the sum of all chemical reactions that occur within our bodies to maintain life. But there are two types of metabolism: anabolism and catabolism. The balance between anabolism and catabolism is crucial for overall health and wellness.


Anabolism is the process of building complex molecules from simpler ones, which requires energy. This process involves the synthesis of new molecules, such as proteins, from smaller building blocks, such as amino acids. Anabolism also includes the storage of energy in the form of glycogen or fat. Examples of anabolic processes include muscle growth, tissue repair, and the production of hormones and enzymes.


Catabolism, on the other hand, is the process of breaking down complex molecules into simpler ones, which releases energy. This process involves the breakdown of molecules such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, into smaller molecules such as glucose, fatty acids, and amino acids. These smaller molecules can then be used as fuel for cellular processes, such as ATP synthesis. Examples of catabolic processes include digestion, cellular respiration, and the breakdown of muscle tissue during exercise.

Both anabolism and catabolism are important for maintaining a healthy metabolism. Anabolism allows for the growth and repair of tissues and the production of essential molecules, while catabolism provides the energy necessary for cellular processes. A balance between these two processes is crucial for overall health and wellness.

What is BMR?

Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the minimum amount of energy required to maintain basic life functions such as breathing, circulating blood, and maintaining body temperature. BMR can account for about 60-75% of total energy expenditure in sedentary individuals, but less in more active people. BMR is influenced by several factors such as age, sex, genetics, and body composition. BMR decreases with age, and women generally have lower BMR than men due to their lower muscle mass and smaller body size.

Exercise and Metabolism

Exercise is a crucial element in boosting metabolism and increasing energy expenditure, and there are three primary types of exercise that can help achieve these results:

Aerobic Exercise

The first type of exercise is aerobic exercise, which is any physical activity that increases heart and breathing rate, such as running, cycling, or swimming. Aerobic exercise uses oxygen to produce energy, and it is an effective way to improve cardiovascular health and endurance. It has been shown to lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Anaerobic Exercise

The second type of exercise is anaerobic exercise, which involves short bursts of intense effort, such as weightlifting or sprinting. Anaerobic exercise primarily uses stored energy in the muscles, known as glycogen, to produce energy. Unlike aerobic exercise, which uses oxygen from the air you breathe to produce energy, anaerobic exercise does not require oxygen for its production of energy. This type of exercise is effective at building muscle strength and endurance, improving bone density, and promoting weight loss.

Resistance Training

The third type of exercise is resistance training, which involves lifting weights or using resistance bands to build muscle strength and endurance. Resistance training is an effective way to build muscle mass, which in turn can increase your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and help burn more calories at rest.

Incorporating a combination of aerobic, anaerobic, and resistance training exercises into your fitness routine can provide a well-rounded approach to achieving your fitness and metabolism goals. Aerobic exercise can help improve cardiovascular health and endurance, while anaerobic exercise can help build muscle strength and endurance, and resistance training can help increase muscle mass and promote weight loss.

Which Type of Exercise Improves Metabolism The Most?

The intensity and duration of exercise play a crucial role in promoting metabolism. High-intensity exercise has been shown to increase metabolism more than low-intensity exercise. However, longer duration exercise can also increase metabolism by burning more calories – so there is a balance.

Post-exercise recovery is another critical factor in promoting metabolism. After exercise, the body continues to burn calories as it repairs and rebuilds muscle tissue. Therefore, recovery time is something we always incorporate into our personal training programmes at Nxtep.

Evidence Supporting Exercise-Induced Increase in Metabolism

There is ample evidence supporting the relationship between exercise and metabolism. Exercise increases energy expenditure, which can help promote weight loss and improve overall health. Studies have shown that exercise can increase BMR, leading to an increase in energy expenditure even when the body is at rest.

One study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that resistance training increased resting metabolic rate (RMR) in healthy middle-aged men by 7% after six months of training.

In addition to resistance training, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) has been shown to increase RMR and fat oxidation compared to steady-state exercise. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that young women who underwent 15 weeks of HIIT had significantly greater reductions in body fat percentage and fasting insulin levels compared to those who did steady-state exercise. HIIT involves alternating periods of high-intensity exercise with periods of low-intensity recovery, and can be performed using various forms of exercise such as running, cycling, or rowing. Most personal training programmes we design at NXTEP incorporate elements of HIIT, so we’re big fans of it.

Factors that Affect Exercise-Induced Increase in Metabolism

As I previously said, several factors can affect the relationship between exercise and metabolism. Body composition is one such significant factor that can affect the number of calories burned during exercise and the increase in BMR after exercise. The reason behind this is that muscle mass is more metabolically active than fat tissue, meaning that individuals with higher muscle mass will burn more calories at rest. Therefore, resistance training, which promotes muscle growth, can lead to a greater increase in BMR than aerobic exercise alone.

Age is another factor that can affect the relationship between exercise and metabolism. As I mentioned earlier, BMR decreases with age. Therefore, older individuals may not experience the same increase in BMR after exercise as younger individuals.

Genetics can also play a role in the relationship between exercise and metabolism – for example, some individuals may have a naturally higher BMR, making it easier for them to lose weight and maintain a healthy metabolism.

Lastly, diet. A balanced diet that includes adequate protein can help promote muscle growth and increase BMR. On the other hand, a low-calorie diet can lead to a decrease in BMR, making it harder to maintain weight loss.

Maximizing the Benefits of Exercise for Metabolism

Choosing the Right Type of Exercise

While all types of exercise can increase metabolism, certain types of exercise may be more effective than others. For example, resistance training, also known as strength training – and usually involving weightlifting, is an effective way to build muscle and increase metabolism. This is because when you lift weights, your muscles are put under stress, which causes small tears in the muscle fibers. As your body repairs these tears, your muscles become stronger and larger, leading to an increase in BMR. This is where the term “ripped” originates!

As already mentioned, HIIT and Aerobic exercise are both also hugely beneficial to your metabolism. The key is really incorporating a balance of all 3, as one on their own is just not going to benefit you as much.

Incorporating Physical Activity into Daily Life

While structured exercise is important for boosting metabolism, incorporating physical activity into your daily life can also be beneficial. This can include activities such as walking or biking to work, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or doing household chores. Any form of physical activity can help increase metabolism and promote overall health and wellness.

Other Benefits of Exercise for Overall Health and Wellness

Exercise not only helps boost metabolism but also provides numerous other benefits for overall health and wellness. Here are some of the key areas where exercise can have a positive impact:

Cardiovascular Health

Exercise has been shown to have numerous benefits for cardiovascular health. Regular exercise can help lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of heart disease. Studies have found that aerobic or cardio exercise, such as running or cycling, can improve heart health by strengthening the heart muscle, improving circulation, and reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Bone Density

Weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, running, and weightlifting, can help increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. As we age, our bones become more fragile, but regular exercise helps stimulate bone growth and maintain bone density. Resistance training, in particular, has been shown to help build and maintain bone density.

Mental Health

Exercise has also been shown to have numerous benefits for mental health. Exercise can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and improve overall mood. Regular exercise can also help reduce stress and improve cognitive function. This is because exercise helps release endorphins, which are natural chemicals in the body that help reduce pain and boost mood.

Weight Loss

Exercise can play an important role in weight loss. While diet plays a larger role in weight loss than exercise, regular exercise can help increase calorie burn and promote fat loss. Resistance training, in particular, can help promote muscle growth and increase metabolism, leading to a greater calorie burn at rest. In addition, exercise helps build lean muscle mass, which helps boost metabolism and burn more calories throughout the day.

Preventing Chronic Diseases

Regular exercise can also help prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. Exercise can help improve insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation, and promote overall health and wellness. For example, studies have found that exercise can help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by improving blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity. Exercise has also been shown to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, such as breast, colon, and lung cancer, and can even help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

In conclusion, exercise is an essential component of a healthy metabolism and overall health and wellness. Choosing the right blend of aerobic exercise, resistance training and HIIT, can help increase metabolism and promote long-term health benefits. Incorporating physical activity into daily life can also be beneficial for boosting metabolism.

Overall, a holistic approach that includes a balanced diet and regular exercise is essential for promoting a healthy metabolism and overall health and wellness. By incorporating regular exercise into your daily routine and choosing the right type of exercise, you can maximize the benefits of exercise for your metabolism and overall health.

If you’re struggling to find the motivation or you’d simply like more expert guidance on the exercises to do and how often to do them, you may find working with a personal trainer beneficial. If you’re in the Knutsford area, give us a call and come down to the studio for a free taster session to see how we can help.

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