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Exercise and Fitness

Underweight with big stomach!

10/09/2006

Question:

Hello Doctor,

I`m now 24 years old and female. I`m petite at 5"1 but I have always been underweight, on average I used to be about 94lbs and only slightly higher on occasion. I weighed recently at 101 lbs which would be great except for the fact that I don`t notice any change in any part of my body except a once flat stomach that has ballooned over the last 6-10 months.

A doctor once told me that I`m not a body type that gains weight easily so my best chance of gaining weight was a high protein diet and free weights.

I`m not an active person and always avoided very active sports and aerobics because I didn`t want to lose weight which I do very easily. I have always eaten a lot of pasta and rice meals but it didn`t used to make a difference.

Now, I want to lose the way too big stomach and yet maintain whatever true fat gain I may be experiencing. What should I do?!?

Answer:

To promote overall good health and fitness it is important that you engage in some form of cardiovascular activity to improve heart and lungs, strength training to build bones and muscle and stretching exercises to enhance flexibility. The motivation to exercise for many people is weight loss. However, this is not the case with everyone, and you are a good example. It is important for you to perform some type of cardiovascular exercise on a regular basis and it need not be extremely rigorous. Pick an activity that you enjoy, for example, walking or biking, and engage in it 3-5 days per week for 20-60 minutes. Strength training with free weights, resistance tubing, or machines 2-3 days per week will improve your bone health and muscle strength.

Because you are building muscle you may notice that the scale does not change but your body composition will. You may actually gain weight because you have gained muscle mass. Another  important fitness goal is to change your body composition from more fat mass to more muscle mass. Try to engage in stretching exercises 2-3 days per week as part of your cardiovascular and strength training activity. Part of any good strength training program should include exercises to strengthen the abdominal (stomach) region. Abdominal exercises, (i.e. crunches), will strengthen and tone your abdominal area. If you need assistance with cardiovascular, strength training or stretching exercises, consult your local gym, YMCA, or seek out a personal trainer.

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Response by:

Patricia A Woellert, MSW, MEd Patricia A Woellert, MSW, MEd
Program Manager
Fitness Center at CARE\Crawley
University of Cincinnati