Why is exercise important if you are trying to gain weight?
It seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Exercising to gain weight, when everything we are taught, the dominant narrative focuses on exercising to lose weight.
But this misses an important understanding of how our bodies function most effectively. We exercise for physical and mental health, to gain or lose weight healthily and safely, and for lasting benefit.
Why do underweight people need to gain weight?
Firstly, let’s look at why a person might need gaining weight:
– After surgery or an illness to support healthy recovery.
– Being underweight can affect a person’s fertility and a woman’s ability to get pregnant.
– Persistent low weight can cause developmental problems or preventable health conditions.
Why is healthy weight gain important?
A person is underweight if their Body Mass Index (BMI) is less than 18.5. We calculate BMI using height and weight, dividing a person’s weight in kilograms with their height in metres squared to get an estimate of body fat.
Being underweight increases the risk of suffering from health conditions including fragile bones and osteoporosis, weakened immune system, and malnutrition. It also reduces muscle strength and puts a person at greater risk of developing infections.
Eat more and build lean muscle growth to gaining weight
If you’re trying to gain weight your calorie intake should be as nutrient-rich as possible. Eat three to five decent meals a day, with healthy snacks between meals. Increase your carbohydrates, focusing on whole grain breads and cereals. Consume high fat content foods like avocados and nuts and avoid fatty junk foods.
Complement higher calorie intake with regular targeted exercise. Strength and resistance training helps build muscle mass which in turn helps with healthy weight gain.
Resistance training includes using your body weight (squats, press-ups, bench-presses), resistance bands, classic strength training with free weights, and weight machines. Pilates and yoga count as resistance training too.
Exercise also stimulates appetite. Obviously, avoid the temptation to tuck into sugary snacks and fizzy drinks. You want muscle gain, not fat gain. Healthy, lean weight gain is a process that can take many months. Be patient and try to stay consistent.
Talk to a professional about safe, healthy weight gain
It’s important to see your doctor before trying to gain weight. They will want to assess you for any underlying health issues (for example an overactive thyroid is linked with low weight) or medical conditions and discuss an appropriate and healthy weight gain program.
Similarly, talk to an exercise professional about your weight gain goals . An exercise physiologist, physiotherapist, personal trainer, or gym instructor will make sure the exercises you are doing help you to safely put on the pounds.
Some dos and don’ts for exercising to gaining weight
– Don’t be tempted by products, supplements, and powders that claim to increase muscle. They can cause unpleasant side effects and lead to unhealthy weight gain.
– Don’t snack on fatty junk foods to increase your calorie count. These will only cause fat build-up.
– Do eat ‘good’ high fat foods like avocados, nuts, cheese, and fatty fish.
– Do increase your nutrient-rich calorie intake.
– Do see your doctor before trying to gain weight.
– Do talk to a professional exercise physiologist or personal trainer.
Remember, gaining weight should be part of a holistic plan for your whole body. It’s true that if you eat more calories than your body uses you will put on weight. But if a person doesn’t train correctly and regularly, they will simply put on fat not muscle and potentially cause unwanted health conditions.
Plus, regular activity equals a healthy body and mind, and you can’t argue with that.