The Best Exercises To Boost Your Metabolism

Looking for the best exercises to boost your metabolism? You might want to swap cardio for weights and high-intensity training. There are far more effective ways to ignite your metabolism than spending hours on the treadmill. Your diet and lifestyle matter, too. Regular exercise, whether it's strength training, swimming, or cycling, cannot compensate for poor sleep or poor eating habits.

Sleep deprivation, for example, can affect insulin sensitivity and appetite in as little as 5 days, according to a 2019 study featured in the Journal of Lipid Research. Skimping on shut-eye may also interfere with your body's ability to burn fat, making it harder to keep the pounds off. Poor nutrition only makes things worse. Over time, fad diets can put your body into "starvation mode" and lead to weight gain, according to the University of Georgia.

Luckily, there are a couple of things you can do to fire up your metabolism. The following exercises can help you burn more calories during and after your workouts.

Crank up the intensity to maximize your workouts

One way to boost your metabolism is to incorporate high-intensity interval training (HIIT) into your workouts. This form of exercise alternates short periods of all-out effort and longer recovery periods. A typical HIIT session lasts 20 to 30 minutes, but there are no set rules on how long you should work out. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) explains that HIIT boasts excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), increasing calorie burn during and after exercise.

Due to its intensity, HIIT burns more calories per minute than steady-state cardio, certified strength and conditioning specialist Noam Tamir told Self. He recommends training as hard as you can for about 20 seconds and then slowing down for up to 60 seconds. "The rest periods are needed to prep the body and enable it to truly perform at its max during the high-intensity spurts," exercise physiologist Franci Cohen told Self.

In the long run, this training method can improve body composition, or fat-to-muscle ratio, while increasing explosive power. Moreover, it may reduce waist circumference and total cholesterol (per the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation). As far as exercise selection goes, you can opt for free weights, plyometrics, or machine work. For example, you could run on the treadmill for 20 seconds, walk for 40 seconds, run for another 20 seconds, and so on. Warm up at the beginning of each session and increase workout intensity gradually — especially if you are new to exercise.  

Focus on compound movements to boost your metabolism

Weight training is often associated with muscle and strength, but it can also help you torch fat. Lifting weights builds lean mass, which in turn may increase your metabolism. Muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat, according to the University of New Mexico. In other words, it requires more energy to sustain itself. That's why many athletes, such as pro bodybuilder Rene Campbell, can eat thousands of calories a day and still look lean (via HuffPost). That being said, you don't need to become a bodybuilder to enjoy these perks. The key is to be smart about your workouts and eat for your goals.

When it comes to the best exercises to boost your metabolism, it's worth focusing on compound movements. Deadlifts, squats, and other exercises that hit multiple muscle groups burn more calories than isolation work (e.g.: biceps curls). As ACE notes, these full-body movements increase EPOC levels and energy expenditure. Over time, you may also experience improved flexibility and balance.

Whether you prefer HIIT, strength training, or both, you can start out with basic movements and try more advanced exercises as you progress. Also, note that both training methods are suitable for at-home workouts. Walking lunges, push-ups, pull-ups, bodyweight squats, hip thrusts, and other compound exercises require little or no equipment. Plus, you can always add resistance bands, medicine balls, dumbbells, or kettlebells to the mix for an extra challenge.