Exercise, metabolism, and weight management

Many people realize that muscles pull on bones to create movement, enabling the body to walk, talk, jump, dance, eat, and smile, but is that all that they do? In a 2012 review, Pedersen and Febbraio reviewed the function of skeletal muscle and its role in combating diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. They found that in addition to creating force, muscles also produce proteins which “talk” to other tissues of the body, instructing them to better manage blood sugar, consume fats as a source of fuel, strengthen bones, reduce inflammation, and build even more muscle.

Muscles are the body’s engines. A successful weight management program can take advantage of muscle to burn calories throughout the day in three ways. FIRST, using these “engines” costs the body “fuel.” Calories are the body’s energy currency and fuel for everything the body does. Exercising small muscles burns few calories. Exercising large muscles burns many calories. SECOND, building muscle is expensive. Strengthening exercises stress muscles more than they are accustomed to, causing them to remodel and become stronger. Remodeling damaged muscle fibers can expend energy for up to 30+ hours after an exercise session, but this rebuilding may not occur with a prolonged, unresisted exercises like running, walking, or biking. The THIRD way muscles help burn energy is by “idling.” Other tissues of the body cost energy to maintain – the heart, kidneys, brain, liver, etc. Muscle does not “shut off” when unused, but rather “idles” in a low state of activity, slowly consuming energy. This means that having more muscle mass increases the amount of calories that the body burns during the day (called “basal metabolic rate” or BMR), making weight management easier.

Exercise provides many health and wellness benefits, and it can be as easy as using your muscles to do things you enjoy. A well-balanced weight management program, however, is not just more exercise. Strategies that focus solely on endurance and do not involve resisted/weighted exercise are missing two of the three ways muscles burn energy. At UP Rehab Services, we have experience creating safe exercise programs designed to meet a variety of goals, including treating and preventing back and extremity pain and assistance in weight management (bariatric rehab). To discuss more about the role of muscles in energy metabolism or to review a weight management program, call us today to schedule a FREE injury screen.


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