3 Workout Mistakes That Slow Metabolism

Mistake #1: You’re in an exercise rut
When you do the same activity day after day, week after week, your mind isn’t the only thing that gets bored—your muscles do, too. After a while your body stops being challenged and your results plateau.

Correct it: Change things up. Go for a hike on the weekend instead of doing your usual power walk. Find new strength moves that work the same muscles. Any little way to mix things up and challenge yourself with something new is a step in the right direction.

Mistake #2: You’re a slave to cardio
While aerobic exercise is good for your body and soul, if you don’t balance those workouts with some strength exercises, you’re not only compromising your results but missing a key component of health and fitness. Resistance training—weight lifting, or strength training—is the only way to increase lean muscle mass and lose stubborn bulges. That’s important on many levels, especially as we start to get older.

Starting in their 30s, women lose about 1/2 pound of muscle a year. (Men usually hold on to muscle longer, but the rate of muscle loss speeds up dramatically after age 60.) Because muscle burns calories even when at rest, losing it will noticeably slow metabolism. This is one big reason many of us see that “middle-age spread” beginning in our 40s.

A study from Skidmore College found that exercisers who combined cardio with a high-intensity, total-body resistance routine lost more than twice as much body fat—including twice as much belly fat—over 12 weeks as those who followed a moderate-intensity cardio plan.

Correct it: Substitute a couple of strength sessions for cardio days. Lift weights at least twice a week, hitting all your body’s major muscle groups.

Mistake #3: You’re stuck in a “fat-burning” zone
If you hop aboard a treadmill, elliptical trainer, stair climber, or other cardio machine at the gym, you may see a programming option that allows you to stay in a “fat-burning” zone. It’s based on the fact that at lower intensities, the body uses a greater percentage of its fat stores for fuel. Sounds great! You don’t have to work as hard and you’re sucking some of that fat out of your belly, butt, and thighs.

But do the math and you’ll see the problem. At a lower intensity level, your body will indeed burn a higher percentage of fat than carbs but still burn fewer calories overall.

Correct it: Burn more calories and make more of those calories come from fat by increasing your overall effort. A great way to achieve that is by doing intervals—periods of higher intensity followed by a slower recovery pace.

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