What are the factors that influence basal metabolic rate (BMR)?

Age, nutrition, and activity are factors that influence basal metabolic rate.

Dr. Michael T. Murray, ND
Naturopathic Medicine Specialist

Factors that influence basal metabolic rate are:

  • Body size: Metabolic rate increases as weight, height, and surface area increase.
  • Body composition: Fat tissue has a lower metabolic activity than muscle tissue. As lean muscle mass increases, metabolic rate increases.
  • Gender: The basal metabolic rate (BMR) averages 5 to 10 percent lower in women than in men. This is largely because women generally possess more body fat and less muscle mass than men of similar size.
  • Age: A decrease in lean muscle mass during adulthood results in a slow, steady decline of roughly 0 3 percent per year in BMR after the age of about 30. This can be largely avoided by strength training throughout adulthood.
  • Climate and body temperature: The BMR of people in tropical climates is generally 5 to 20 percent higher than their counterparts living in more temperate areas because it takes energy to keep the body cool. Exercise performed in hot weather also imposes an additional metabolic load. Body fat content and effectiveness of clothing determine the magnitude of increase in energy metabolism in cold environments; it takes energy to keep the body warm if you work or exercise in very cold weather.
  • Hormonal levels: Thyroxine (T4), the key hormone released by the thyroid glands has a significant effect upon metabolic rate. Hypothyroidism is relatively common, especially in women near or after menopause. Everyone with a weight problem should have their thyroid function checked by their doctor and treated appropriately if it turns out to be low.
  • Health: Fever, illness, or injury may increase resting metabolic rate two-fold.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.