A Good Way To Gain Weight If You’re Underweight

What’s a good way to gain weight if you’re underweight?

Although being lean can often be healthy, being underweight can be a concern if it’s the result of poor nutrition or if you are pregnant or have other health concerns. So, if you’re underweight, see your doctor or dietitian for an evaluation. Together, you can plan how to meet your goal weight.

Here are some healthy ways to gain weight when you’re underweight:

  • Eat more frequently. When you’re underweight, you may feel full faster. Eat five to six smaller meals during the day rather than two or three large meals.
  • Choose nutrient-rich foods. As part of an overall healthy diet, choose whole-grain breads, pastas and cereals; fruits and vegetables; dairy products; lean protein sources; and nuts and seeds.
  • Try smoothies and shakes. Don’t fill up on diet soda, coffee and other drinks with few calories and little nutritional value. Instead, drink smoothies or healthy shakes made with milk and fresh or frozen juice, and sprinkle in some ground flaxseed. In some cases, a liquid meal replacement may be recommended.
  • Watch when you drink. Some people find that drinking fluids before meals blunts their appetite. In that case, it may be better to sip higher calorie beverages along with a meal or snack. For others, drinking 30 minutes after a meal, not with it, may work.
  • Make every bite count. Snack on nuts, peanut butter, cheese, dried fruits and avocados. Have a bedtime snack, such as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or a wrap sandwich with avocado, sliced vegetables, and lean meat or cheese.
  • Top it off. Add extras to your dishes for more calories — such as cheese in casseroles and scrambled eggs, and fat-free dried milk in soups and stews.
  • Have an occasional treat. Even when you’re underweight, be mindful of excess sugar and fat. An occasional slice of pie with ice cream is OK. But most treats should be healthy and provide nutrients in addition to calories. Bran muffins, yogurt and granola bars are good choices.
  • Exercise, especially strength training, can help you gain weight by building up your muscles. Exercise may also stimulate your appetite.

 

Physical Activity

Physical activity is an important part of your weight management program. Most weight loss occurs because of decreased calorie intake. Sustained physical activity is most helpful in the prevention of weight regain. In addition, exercise has a benefit of reducing risks of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, beyond that produced by weight reduction alone. Start exercising slowly, and gradually increase the intensity. Trying too hard at first can lead to injury.

Examples of moderate-intensity amounts of physical activity

Common Chores

  • Washing and waxing a car for 45–60 minutes
  • Washing windows or floors for 45–60 minutes
  • Gardening for 30–45 minutes
  • Wheeling self in wheelchair for 30–40 minutes
  • Pushing a stroller 1.5 miles in 30 minutes
  • Raking leaves for 30 minutes
  • Walking 2 miles in 30 minutes (15 min/mile)
  • Shoveling snow for 15 minutes
  • Stairwalking for 15 minutes

Sporting Activities

  • Playing volleyball for 45–60 minutes
  • Playing touch football for 45 minutes
  • Walking 1.75 miles in 35 minutes (20 min/mile)
  • Basketball (shooting baskets) for 30 minutes
  • Bicycling 5 miles in 30 minutes
  • Dancing fast (social) for 30 minutes
  • Water aerobics for 30 minutes
  • Swimming laps for 20 minutes
  • Basketball (playing game) for 15–20 minutes
  • Bicycling 4 miles in 15 minutes
  • Jumping rope for 15 minutes
  • Running 1.5 miles in 15 minutes (10 min/mile)

Activity Progression Samples

Beginners: standing activities, ironing, cooking, playing a musical instrument, etc.

Light: slow walking, garage work, house cleaning, childcare, etc.

Moderate intensity: faster walking, weeding the garden, cycling, tennis, etc.

High intensity: walking fast with a load uphill, basketball, climbing, soccer, etc.

You also may want to try:

  • Flexibility exercises to attain full range of joint motion
  • Strength or resistance exercises
  • Aerobic conditioning

 

Physical Activity Guide

Adults who are physically active are healthier and less likely to develop many chronic diseases than adults who are inactive. They also have better fitness, including a healthier body size and composition. These benefits are gained by men and women and people of all races and ethnicity who have been studied.

Adults gain most of these health benefits when they do the equivalent of at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity (2 hours and 30 minutes) each week. Adults gain additional and more extensive health and fitness benefits with even more physical activity. Muscle-strengthening activities also provide health benefits and are an important part of an adult’s overall physical activity plan.

Explaining the Guidelines

The Guidelines for adults focus on two types of activity: aerobic and muscle-strengthening. Each type provides important health benefits.

Aerobic Activity

Aerobic activities, also called endurance activities, are physical activities in which people move their large muscles in a rhythmic manner for a sustained period. Running, brisk walking, bicycling, playing basketball, dancing, and swimming are all examples of aerobic activities. Aerobic activity makes a person’s heart beat more rapidly to meet the demands of the body’s movement. Over time, regular aerobic activity makes the heart and cardiovascular system stronger and fitter.

The purpose of the aerobic activity does not affect whether it counts toward meeting the Guidelines. For example, physically active occupations can count toward meeting the Guidelines, as can active transportation choices (walking or bicycling). All types of aerobic activities can count as long as they are of sufficient intensity and duration. Time spent in muscle strengthening activities does not count toward the aerobic activity guidelines.

When putting the Guidelines into action, it’s important to consider the total amount of activity, as well as how often to be active, for how long, and at what intensity.

Key Guidelines for Adults

  • All adults should avoid inactivity. Some physical activity is better than none, and adults who participate in any amount of physical activity gain some health benefits.
  • For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes, and preferably, it should be spread throughout the week.
  • For additional and more extensive health benefits, adults should increase their aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity, or 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity. Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond this amount.
  • Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities that are moderate or high intensity and involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these activities provide additional health benefits.

How Much Total Activity a Week?

When adults do the equivalent of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, the benefits are substantial. These benefits include lower risk of premature death, coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and depression.

Not all health benefits of physical activity occur at 150 minutes a week. As a person moves from 150 minutes a week toward 300 minutes (5 hours) a week, he or she gains additional health benefits. Additional benefits include lower risk of colon and breast cancer and prevention of unhealthy weight gain.

Also, as a person moves from 150 minutes a week toward 300 minutes a week, the benefits that occur at 150 minutes a week become more extensive. For example, a person who does 300 minutes a week has an even lower risk of heart disease or diabetes than a person who does 150 minutes a week.

The benefits continue to increase when a person does more than the equivalent of 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. For example, a person who does 420 minutes (7 hours) a week has an even lower risk of premature death than a person who does 150 to 300 minutes a week.

How Many Days a Week and for How Long?

Aerobic physical activity should preferably be spread throughout the week. Research studies consistently show that activity performed on at least 3 days a week produces health benefits. Spreading physical activity across at least 3 days a week may help to reduce the risk of injury and avoid excessive fatigue.

Both moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes. Episodes of this duration are known to improve cardiovascular fitness and some risk factors for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

How Intense?

Guidelines for adults focus on two levels of intensity: moderate-intensity activity and vigorous–intensity activity. To meet the Guidelines, adults can do either moderate-intensity or vigorous-intensity aerobic activities, or a combination of both. It takes less time to get the same benefit from vigorous-intensity activities as from moderate-intensity activities. A general rule of thumb is that 2 minutes of moderate-intensity activity counts the same as 1 minute of vigorous-intensity activity. For example, 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week is roughly the same as 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity.

There are two ways to track the intensity of aerobic activity: absolute intensity and relative intensity.

    • Absolute intensity is the amount of energy expended per minute of activity. The energy expenditure of light-intensity activity, for example, is 1.1 to 2.9 times the amount of energy expended when a person is at rest. Moderate-intensity activities expend 3.0 to 5.9 times the amount of energy expended at rest. The energy expenditure of vigorous-intensity activities is 6.0 or more times the energy expended at rest.
    • Relative intensity is the level of effort required to do an activity. Less fit people generally require a higher level of effort than fitter people to do the same activity. Relative intensity can be estimated using a scale of 0 to 10, where sitting is 0 and the highest level of effort possible is 10. Moderate intensity activity is a 5 or 6. Vigorous-intensity activity is a 7 or 8.

Examples of Different Aerobic Physical Activities and Intensities

 Moderate Intensity

      • Walking briskly (3 miles per hour or faster, but not race-walking)
      • Water aerobics
      • Bicycling slower than 10 miles per hour
      • Tennis (doubles)
      • Ballroom dancing
      • General gardening

Vigorous Intensity

      • Race walking, jogging, or running
      • Swimming laps
      • Tennis (singles)
      • Aerobic dancing
      • Bicycling 10 miles per hour or faster
      • Jumping rope
      • Heavy gardening (continuous digging or hoeing, with heart rate increases)
      • Hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack

Muscle-Strengthening Activity

      • Muscle-strengthening activities provide additional benefits not found with aerobic activity. The benefits of muscle-strengthening activity include increased bone strength and muscular fitness. Muscle-strengthening activities can also help maintain muscle mass during a program of weight loss.
      • Muscle-strengthening activities make muscles do more work than they are accustomed to doing. That is, they overload the muscles. Resistance training, including weight training, is a familiar example of muscle-strengthening activity. Other examples include working with resistance bands, doing calisthenics that use body weight for resistance (such as push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups), carrying heavy loads, and heavy gardening (such as digging or hoeing).
      • Muscle-strengthening activities count if they involve a moderate to high level of intensity or effort and work the major muscle groups of the body: the legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms. muscle strengthening activities for all the major muscle groups should be done at least 2 days a week.
      • No specific amount of time is recommended for muscle strengthening, but muscle-strengthening exercises should be performed to the point at which it would be difficult to do another repetition without help. When resistance training is used to enhance muscle strength, one set of 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise is effective, although two or three sets may be more effective. Development of muscle strength and endurance is progressive over time. Increases in the amount of weight or the days a week of exercising will result in stronger muscles.

Ways to be even more active

For adults who are already doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, here are a few ways to do even more. Physical activity at this level has even greater health benefits.

      • Forty-five minutes of brisk walking every day, exercising with resistance bands on 2 or 3 days;
      • Forty-five minutes of running on 3 or 4 days, circuit weight training in a gym on 2 or 3 days;
      • Thirty minutes of running on 2 days, 45 minutes of brisk walking on 1 day, 45 minutes of an aerobics and weights class on 1 day, 90 minutes (1 hour and 30 minutes) of social dancing on 1 evening, 30 minutes of mowing the lawn, plus some heavy garden work on 1 day;
      • Ninety minutes of playing soccer on 1 day, brisk walking for 15 minutes on 3 days, lifting weights on 2 days; and
      • Forty-five minutes of stationary bicycling on 2 days, 60 minutes of basketball on 2 days, calisthenics on 3 days.

 

A SMART Approach to Weight Loss

SMART Approach to Weight Loss

When it comes to weight loss, it’s easy to focus only on the number of pounds you need to lose without much thought given to lasting “lifestyle” changes. Successful weight loss is not so much about a number on the scale, it’s about adopting a lifestyle and setting goals that are based on changing the way you eat, exercise and behave. One way to do that is to use the SMART approach in creating a weight loss plan:

Specific:

Set goals that define specific behavioral changes. Instead of saying, “I’m going to lose weight,” redefine it and make it specific by saying, “I’m going to cut my calorie intake by 250 calories a day and exercise for 30 minutes a day.”

Measurable:

Set goals that are measurable and create ways to document progress. A measurable goal might be that you will lose 10% of your current body weight. Documenting progress could be in the form of keeping a food journal and exercise log. Measurable goals and documentation provides valuable feedback as you are progressing towards your goals and will increase your sense of accomplishment and motivation.

Action Oriented:

Clearly state the action that needs to be accomplished in order to achieve your goals. This allows you to actively work towards attaining them. For example, jogging for 30 minutes a day at a speed of 5 mph is an action oriented goal.

Realistic:

If your goals are not realistic, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Design your weight loss program by creating multiple short-term goals that are easily within reach. These will ultimately help you achieve your long-term goal. With each short-term goal success, you will gain the confidence and motivation that your weight loss goal can be achieved. If you’re having difficulty accomplishing a specific goal, make an adjustment or two so that it is more realistically attainable.

Timed:

Set a specific time frame to accomplish your goals. A series of timed short-term goals will serve as stepping stones to realize your long term goal. A time frame is also beneficial when it comes to needing to make some readjustments to goals that are not being met.

Based on the SMART approach, a simple weight loss program could look like this for a woman who is 5′ 7″ tall and weighs 171 pounds.

Long-term Goal:

  • Lose 12 pounds over the next 3 months for a BMI of 24.9. (Specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic, timed) See Fitness Partner’s BMI calculator.

Short-term Goal #1:

  • Over the next month (timed), lose 4 pounds (specific, measurable, action oriented and realistic) by cutting calorie intake to 1700 calories/day and briskly walking 30 minutes a day. (Specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic)
  • Track progress by keeping a food journal and documenting duration of exercise sessions each day. Weigh in every Monday morning and note weight in daily journal. (Action oriented and measurable documentation to provide feedback)

Short-term Goal #2:

  • Based on feedback and progress from last month, make any necessary adjustments required to accomplish the same goal as last month.
  • An additional change this month will be to add 30 minutes of strength training twice a week at the gym using 10-12 weight machines that target each major muscle group. (Specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic, timed) Strength training sessions will be noted in daily journal. (Action oriented and measurable documentation to provide feedback)

Short-term Goal #3

  • Based on feedback and progress from last month, make any necessary adjustments required to accomplish the same goal as last month.
  • An additional change this month will be to increase duration of brisk walks to 45 minutes a day and increase strength training sessions to 3 per week. (Specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic, timed) All will be documented in daily journal. (Action oriented and measurable documentation to provide feedback)

 

Getting Fit for Life

Exercise and Physical Activity: Getting Fit for Life

Exercise and physical activity are good for you, no matter how old you are. In fact, staying active can help you:

  • Keep and improve your strength so you can stay independent
  • Have more energy to do the things you want to do
  • Improve your balance
  • Prevent or delay some diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis
  • Perk up your mood and reduce depression

You don’t need to buy special clothes or belong to a gym to become more active. Physical activity can and should be part of your everyday life. Find things you like to do. Go for brisk walks. Ride a bike. Dance. Work around the house. Garden. Climb stairs. Swim. Rake leaves. Try different kinds of activities that keep you moving. Look for new ways to build physical activity into your daily routine.

Four Ways to Be Active

To get all of the benefits of physical activity, try all four types of exercise — 1) endurance, 2) strength, 3) balance, and 4) flexibility.

A. Try to build up to at least 30 minutes of activity that makes you breathe hard on most or all days of the week. Every day is best. That’s called an endurance activity because it builds your energy or “staying power.” You don’t have to be active for 30 minutes all at once. Ten minutes at a time is fine. How hard do you need to push yourself? If you can talk without any trouble at all, you are not working hard enough. If you can’t talk at all, it’s too hard.

Wall push-ups

  1. These push-ups will strengthen your arms, shoulders, and chest. Try this exercise during a TV commercial break.
    Face a wall, standing a little farther than arm’s length away, feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lean your body forward and put your palms flat against the wall at shoulder height and shoulder-width apart.
  3. Slowly breathe in as you bend your elbows and lower your upper body toward the wall in a slow, controlled motion. Keep your feet flat on the floor.
  4. Hold the position for 1 second.
  5. Breathe out and slowly push yourself back until your arms are straight.
  6. Repeat 10-15 times.
  7. Rest; then repeat 10-15 more times.

B. Keep using your muscles. Strength exercises build muscles. When you have strong muscles, you can get up from a chair by yourself, you can lift your grandchildren, and you can walk through the park.

Keeping your muscles in shape helps prevent falls that cause problems like broken hips. You are less likely to fall when your leg and hip muscles are strong.

Toe stands

This exercise will help make walking easier by strengthening your calves and ankles.

  1. Stand behind a sturdy chair, feet shoulder-width apart, holding on for balance. Breathe in slowly.
  2. Breathe out and slowly stand on tiptoes, as high as possible.
  3. Hold position for 1 second.
  4. Breathe in as you slowly lower heels to the floor.
  5. Repeat 10-15 times.
  6. Rest; then repeat 10-15 more times.

C. Do things to help your balance. Try standing on one foot, then the other. If you can, don’t hold on to anything for support.

Stand on one foot

You can do this exercise while waiting for the bus or standing in line at the grocery. For an added challenge, you can modify the exercise to improve your balance.

  1. Stand on one foot behind a sturdy chair, holding on for balance.
  2. Hold position for up to 10 seconds.
  3. Repeat 10-15 times.
  4. Repeat 10-15 times with other leg.
  5. Repeat 10-15 more times with each leg.

D. Stretching can improve your flexibility. Moving more freely will make it easier for you to reach down to tie your shoes or look over your shoulder when you back the car out of your driveway. Stretch when your muscles are warmed up. Don’t stretch so far that it hurts.

Back of leg stretch

This exercise stretches the muscles in the back of your legs. If you’ve had hip or back surgery, talk with your doctor before trying this stretch.

  1. Lie on your back with left knee bent and left foot flat on the floor.
  2. Raise right leg, keeping knee slightly bent.
  3. Reach up and grasp right leg with both hands. Keep head and shoulders flat on the floor.
  4. Gently pull right leg toward your body until you feel a stretch in the back of your leg.
  5. Hold position for 10-30 seconds.
  6. Repeat at least 3-5 times.
  7. Repeat at least 3-5 times with left leg.

Who Should Exercise?

Almost anyone, at any age, can do some type of physical activity. You can still exercise even if you have a health condition like heart disease or diabetes. In fact, physical activity may help. For most older adults, brisk walking, riding a bike, swimming, weight lifting, and gardening are safe, especially if you build up slowly. But, check with your doctor if you are over 50 and you aren’t used to energetic activity. Other reasons to check with your doctor before you exercise include:

  • Any new symptom you haven’t discussed with your doctor
  • Dizziness or shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or pressure or the feeling that your heart is skipping, racing, or fluttering
  • Blood clots
  • An infection or fever with muscle aches
  • Unplanned weight loss
  • Foot or ankle sores that won’t heal
  • Joint swelling
  • A bleeding or detached retina, eye surgery, or laser treatment
  • A hernia
  • Recent hip or back surgery

Safety Tips

Here are some things you can do to make sure you are exercising safely:

  • Start slowly, especially if you haven’t been active for a long time. Little by little, build up your activities and how hard you work at them.
  • Don’t hold your breath during strength exercises. That could cause changes in your blood pressure.It may seem strange at first, but you should breathe out as you lift something and breathe in as you relax.
  • Use safety equipment. For example, wear a helmet for bike riding or the right shoes for walking or jogging.
  • Unless your doctor has asked you to limit fluids, be sure to drink plenty of fluids when you are doing activities. Many older adults don’t feel thirsty even if their body needs fluids.
  • Always bend forward from the hips, not the waist. If you keep your back straight, you’re probably bending the right way. If your back “humps,” that’s probably wrong.
  • Warm up your muscles before you stretch. Try walking and light arm pumping first.

Exercise should not hurt or make you feel really tired. You might feel some soreness, a little discomfort, or a bit weary, but you should not feel pain. In fact, in many ways, being active will probably make you feel better.