FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Anyone who is taking steps to improve his or her overall health is sure to continue to run across the word metabolism. So many of us blame our metabolism for our struggles with making that scale go down. To some degree it's true. But to a greater degree, it is not.

That's good news because we all want to take comfort in the fact that there is a remedy to help us gain victory in the weight-loss arena. Metabolism is the amount of calories that a person's body uses to maintain itself. Making the heart beat, sleeping or just sitting and watching television requires energy. The amount of energy needed to do all these functions is called metabolism. How fast or slow it goes varies from person to person.

Every dieter has probably suspected that his or her metabolism and weight loss are related; that suspicion is correct. Metabolism is affected by the amount of muscle a person has versus the amount of fat. That is because muscle is an active tissue. It gets hungry and needs to feed. Its food of choice is your excess fat. Isn't that wonderful'

Everyone should build a relationship with his or her metabolism. Everyone needs to know how his or her metabolism works so he or she can manipulate it to the body's advantage. What speeds it up' What slows it down' What keeps it revved' Knowing the answer to these questions is like ammunition. Of course, because weight loss is the ultimate goal, how can a person get his or her metabolism hungry' It must be boosted.

How can it be boosted' Well... it must be fed exercise. Using exercise to manipulate metabolism grants loads of benefits.
- It slows down the aging process; increases your strength, stamina and immunity;
- It reduces your body fat and fights off cardiovascular disease; and
- It enhances your memory and restores your youthful glow.

Those are some great incentives, so even though genetics can play a role in metabolism speed; don't focus on what cannot be changed. Instead, focus on what people can do. A novice new to exercise can do easy things like parking the car as far away as possible from the door of the mall or grocery store. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or even do 10 minutes of exercise.

Everything a person does throughout the day will increase his or her metabolism for that day. In order to kick things into high gear, make a point to add some strength training to the day. Remember, muscle requires oxygen just to maintain its resting state; fat just sits there and waits to be fed again. Muscle is very active tissue; a pound of muscle burns about 40 calories a day, while a pound of fat burns just two calories a day.

A sad reality is that our metabolism naturally slows with age. After 30, the body gradually begins to lose its muscle. For example, if a person's activity level stays the same and the amount of calories he or she eats stays the same, the person will still gain weight because the metabolism has slowed down. So exercise - and pick up those weights - on a regular basis. That way the changes are more subtle. Begin exercising and if you are dieting, stop. Each person needs a healthy meal program that contains foods lower in fat. These food choices really work with the metabolism. Eating right and light throughout the day will keep the metabolism humming and leveled all day.

Everything goes back to exercise and eating healthy. It may not be the fast track, but it will get your metabolism on track.