Basal metabolic rate (BMR), and the resting metabolic rate (RMR), is the amount of energy expended while at rest in a neutrally temperate environment, in the post-absorptive state (meaning that the digestive system is inactive, which requires about twelve hours of fasting in humans). The release of energy in this state is sufficient only for the functioning of the vital organs, such as the heart, lungs, brain and the rest of the nervous system, liver, kidneys, sex organs, muscles and skin. BMR decreases with age and with the loss of lean body mass. Increasing muscle mass increases BMR. Aerobic fitness level, a product of cardiovascular exercise, while previously thought to have effect on BMR, has been shown in the 1990s not to correlate with BMR, when fat-free body mass was adjusted for.
Both basal metabolic rate and resting metabolic rate are usually expressed in terms of daily rates of energy expenditure. The early work of the scientists J. Arthur Harris and Francis G. Benedict showed that approximate values could be derived using body surface area (computed from height and weight), age, and sex, along with the oxygen and carbon dioxide measures taken from calorimetry. Studies also showed that by eliminating the sex differences that occur with the accumulation of adipose tissue by expressing metabolic rate per unit of "fat-free" or lean body weight, the values between sexes for basal metabolism are essentially the same. Exercise physiology textbooks have tables to show the conversion of height and body surface area as they relate to weight and basal metabolic values. The primary organ responsible for regulating metabolism is the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is located on the brain stem and forms the floor and part of the lateral walls of the third ventricle of the cerebrum.