Keep Active and Eat Healthy to Improve Well-being and Feel Great

Eating foods that are good for you and staying physically active may help you reach and maintain a healthy weight and improve how you feel. You also may find that moving more and eating better could help you keep up with the demands of your busy life and be there for the people who depend on you.

This web content is part of materials and a program called Sisters Together: Move More, Eat Better. The program encourages black women to improve their health through regular physical activity and healthy eating. You may use this information to help yourself, friends, and family members get healthier. It’s never too early or too late to start making small changes to improve your health.

Why should I move more and eat better?

In addition to helping you reach and maintain a healthy weight, staying active and eating better may lower your chances of developing

But improving your health isn’t the only reason to move more and eat better. You may also

Your family, friends, and coworkers can be a great source of support as you work to adopt healthier habits. Ask them to join your efforts. Being healthy is important for them, too. By making healthy choices together, you may find it’s easier to move more and eat better.

Should I talk to a health care professional before starting a physical activity program?

Most people don’t need to see a health care professional before starting a less intense physical activity, like walking. However, if you have chronic conditions, such as diabetes—or symptoms of chronic conditions—talk with a health professional about the type and amount of physical activity that’s best for you.

Two women walking outdoors carrying water bottles

If you haven’t been active, work slowly toward the goal of 150 minutes per week.

How much physical activity do I need?

To maintain or improve your health, aim for 150 minutes per week—or at least 30 minutes on all or most days of the week—of moderate physical activity. Moderate activities are ones that you can talk—but not sing—while doing, such as brisk walking or dancing. These activities speed up your heart rate and breathing.

If you haven’t been active, work slowly toward the goal of 150 minutes per week. For example, start out doing light or moderate activities for shorter amounts of time throughout the week. You can gain some health benefits even if you do as little as 60 minutes of moderate physical activity a week.

For best results, spread out your physical activity throughout the week. Even 10 or 15 minutes at a time counts. And any amount of physical activity is better than none at all.

To lose weight and keep it off, you may need to be even more active. Shoot for 300 minutes per week, or an hour a day 5 days a week. On at least 2 days per week, also try activities that strengthen your muscles. Examples of these activities include workouts using hand weights or rubber strength bands.

How can I handle roadblocks to becoming more active?

Becoming more active isn’t easy. Different people may have different reasons for finding it hard to get moving. If some of the roadblocks below sound familiar, try the suggested tips to help you overcome them.

“I don't have time.”

Try sneaking a few minutes of physical activity at a time into your day. Get started by making these small changes in your daily routine:

“I'm going to ruin my hairstyle.”

If you avoid being active because you don’t want to ruin your hairstyle, try

“It costs too much.”

You can be active without spending a lot of money—or any money at all:

“Physical activity is a chore.”

Some people may be put off by physical activity, especially if they haven’t been active for a while or got hurt and are afraid of getting injured again. However, with some planning and effort, physical activity can be enjoyable:

Four adults and two children strolling along a wooded trail

Physical activity can be fun when you do something you enjoy.

How can I eat healthier?

An example of a healthy meal includes vegetables, fruits, and small portions of protein and whole grains. These foods provide fiber and important nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. When planning meals for you and your family, think about including

Treats are okay if you have them once in a while. Just don’t eat foods such as candy, ice cream, or cookies every day. Limit sweet treats to special occasions, and keep portions small. Have one cookie or piece of candy, rather than trying every kind.

Remember that alcohol, juices, soda, and other sweet drinks have a lot of sugar and calories.

If you can’t have milk or milk products because you have trouble digesting lactose, the sugar found in milk, try lactose-free milk or yogurt. Besides milk and milk products, you can get calcium from calcium-added cereals, juices, and drinks made from soy or nuts. Eating dark green leafy vegetables such as collard greens and kale, and canned fish with soft bones like salmon, can also help you meet your body’s calcium needs.

How can reading the Nutrition Facts label help me?

Reading the information on the Nutrition Facts label can help you choose foods high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals; and low in sodium, added sugars, and unhealthy fats, which federal dietary guidelines (PDF, 493 KB) recommend Americans limit.

Nutrition Facts label

Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Nutrition Facts label appears on most packaged foods and tells you how many calories and servings are in a box, can, or package. The label also shows how many nutrients are in one food serving. The FDA made changes in 2016 to update the Nutrition Facts label .

How can I handle roadblocks to healthy eating?

Eating healthy foods may seem hard when you don’t have time to cook or are on a tight budget. Try these tips to get past roadblocks that may keep you from eating well:

“I don't have time to cook healthy meals; I don’t really know how to cook.”

Eating healthy doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Nor do you need to be a chef to prepare healthy meals. Here are ways you and your family can eat better without spending a lot of time preparing meals:

Mother, father, and daughter preparing vegetables in a kitchen

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to eat well.

“Eating well costs too much.”

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to eat well :

How can I eat well when away from home?

Here are some ways to make healthy food choices when you’re on the go:

I can do it!

Set specific goals and move at your own pace to reach them. For example, instead of “I’ll be more active,” set a goal such as “I’ll take a walk after lunch at least 2 days a week.” Ask your family, friends, and coworkers to help you. They can join you, cheer you on, help you get back on track after a setback, and be there to celebrate your successes!

No matter what, keep trying. You can do it!

Clinical Trials

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and other components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct and support research into many diseases and conditions.

What are clinical trials, and are they right for you?

Clinical trials are part of clinical research and at the heart of all medical advances. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease. Researchers also use clinical trials to look at other aspects of care, such as improving the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses. Find out if clinical trials are right for you .

What clinical trials are open?

Clinical trials that are currently open and are recruiting can be viewed at www.ClinicalTrials.gov .

January 2018

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Anne E. Sumner, M.D., NIDDK; National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities (joint appointment)


Some Myths about Nutrition & Physical Activity

Are you overwhelmed by daily decisions about what to eat, how much to eat, when to eat, and how much physical activity you need to be healthy? If so, don’t be discouraged because you’re not alone. With so many choices and decisions, it can be hard to know what to do and which information you can trust.

This information may help you make changes in your daily eating and physical activity habits so that you improve your well-being and reach or maintain a healthy weight.

Food Myths

Myth: To lose weight, you have to give up all your favorite foods.

Fact: You don’t have to give up all your favorite foods when you’re trying to lose weight. Small amounts of your favorite high-calorie foods may be part of your weight-loss plan. Just remember to keep track of the total calories you take in. To lose weight, you must burn more calories than you take in through food and beverages.

TIP: Limiting foods that are high in calories may help you lose weight. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 have estimated daily calorie needs based on a person’s age, sex, and physical activity level.

Myth: Grain products such as bread, pasta, and rice are fattening. You should avoid them when trying to lose weight.

Loaf of whole-wheat bread

Substituting whole grains for refined-grain products is healthier and may help you feel fuller.

Fact: Grains themselves aren’t necessarily fattening—or unhealthy–although substituting whole grains for refined-grain products is healthier and may help you feel fuller. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommend consuming grains as part of a healthy eating plan . At least half of the grains you eat should be whole grains. Examples of whole grains include brown rice and whole-wheat bread, cereal, and pasta. Whole grains provide iron, fiber, and other important nutrients.

TIP: Try to replace refined or white bread with whole-wheat bread and refined pasta with whole-wheat pasta. Or add whole grains to mixed dishes, such as brown instead of white rice to stir fry. Check out ChooseMyPlate for more tips to help you add whole grains to your eating plan.

Myth: Choosing foods that are gluten-free will help you eat healthier.

Fact: Gluten-free foods are not healthier if you don’t have celiac disease or are not sensitive to gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye grains. A health care professional is likely to prescribe a gluten-free eating plan to treat people who have celiac disease or are sensitive to gluten. If you don’t have these health problems but avoid gluten anyway, you may not get the vitamins, fiber, and minerals you need. A gluten-free diet is not a weight-loss diet and is not intended to help you lose weight.

TIP: Before you decide to avoid a whole food group, talk with your health care professional if you believe you have problems after you consume foods or drinks with wheat, barley, or rye.

Myth: You should avoid all fats if you’re trying to be healthy or lose weight.

Fact: You do not have to avoid all fats if you’re trying to improve your health or lose weight. Fat provides essential nutrients and should be an important part of a healthy eating plan. But because fats have more calories per gram than protein or carbohydrates, or “carbs,” you need to limit fats to avoid extra calories. If you are trying to lose weight, consider eating small amounts of food with healthy fats, such as avocados, olives, or nuts. You also could replace whole-fat cheese or milk with lower-fat versions. Read about food portions and how much food is enough for you.

TIP: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommend consuming less than 10 percent of your daily calories from saturated fats. Try cutting back on solid-fat foods. Use olive oil instead of butter in cooking.

Myth: Dairy products are fattening and unhealthy.

Fact: Dairy products are an important food group because they have protein your body needs to build muscles and help organs work well, and calcium to strengthen bones. Most dairy products, such as milk and some yogurts, have added vitamin D to help your body use calcium, since many Americans don’t get enough of these nutrients. Dairy products made from fat-free or low-fat milk have fewer calories than dairy products made from whole milk. Learn more about the dairy group .

TIP: Adults should have 3 servings a day of fat-free or low-fat dairy products, including milk or milk products such as yogurt and cheese, or fortified soy beverages, as part of a healthy eating plan. If you can’t digest lactose, the sugar found in dairy products, choose fortified soy products, lactose-free or low-lactose dairy products, or other foods and beverages with calcium and vitamin D:

Myth: “Going vegetarian” will help you lose weight and be healthier.

A couple cooking vegetables

Some research shows that a healthy vegetarian eating plan may be linked to lower obesity levels.

Fact: Some research shows that a healthy vegetarian eating plan, or one made up of foods that come mostly from plants , may be linked to lower levels of obesity, lower blood pressure, and a reduced risk of heart disease. But going vegetarian will only lead to weight loss if you reduce the total number of calories you take in. Some vegetarians may make food choices that could lead to weight gain, such as eating a lot of food high in sugar, fats, and calories.

Eating small amounts of lean meats can also be part of a healthy plan to lose or maintain weight. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020 have more information about including meat as part of a healthy eating plan .

TIP: If you choose to follow a vegetarian eating plan, be sure you get enough of the nutrients your body needs to be healthy. Read Healthy Eating Tips for Vegetarians for more information.

Physical Activity Myths

Myth: Physical activity only counts if you do it for long periods of time.

Fact: You don’t need to be active for long periods to get the amount of regular physical activity recommended in the Physical Activity Guidelines , which is at least 150 minutes, or 2 hours and 30 minutes, of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. An example of moderate-intensity activity is brisk walking. You can spread these sessions out over the week and even do short, 10-minute spurts of activity 3 times a day on 5 or more days a week.

TIP: Find ways to build short bursts of physical activity into your day. While at work, take a 10-minute walking break or have a “walking,” rather than a “sitting” meeting, if work and schedule permit. Use stairs instead of an elevator or escalator. Get off the bus one stop early. Meet a friend for a walk, instead of a meal.

Myth: Lifting weights is not a good way to improve your health or lose weight because it will make you “bulk up.”

A woman using hand weights

Do muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week.

Fact: Lifting weights or doing other activities 2 or 3 days a week that may help you build strong muscles, such as push-ups and some types of yoga, will not bulk you up. Only intense strength training, along with certain genes, can build large muscles. Like other kinds of physical activity, muscle-strengthening activities will help improve your health and also may help you control your weight by increasing the amount of energy-burning muscle.

TIP: Using large rubber bands, or resistance bands, or doing sit-ups or household or yard chores that make you lift or dig, may help you build strong muscles.

Clinical Trials

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and other components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct and support research into many diseases and conditions.

What are clinical trials, and are they right for you?

Clinical trials are part of clinical research and at the heart of all medical advances. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease. Researchers also use clinical trials to look at other aspects of care, such as improving the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses. Find out if clinical trials are right for you .

What clinical trials are open?

Clinical trials that are currently open and are recruiting can be viewed at www.ClinicalTrials.gov .

Alternate Versions

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Dr. Catherine Loria, Senior Scientific Advisor, Division of Cardiovascular Sciences, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; Dr. Richard P. Troiano, CAPT, U.S. Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Walking: A Step in the Right Direction

Have you been thinking of adding more physical activity to your life? Have you thought about walking? Walking is a great way to be more active and is the most popular physical activity among adults.

Most people can walk, including many people with disabilities who are able to walk on their own or with walkers or other aids.

The information and tips below can help you make walking and physical activity part of your daily routine.

What are the benefits of walking?

Two benefits of walking are that it’s easy to do and has a low risk of injury. Walking also is free or low-cost because you don’t need special equipment, clothing, facilities, or training. Because walking can easily fit your schedule, needs, and abilities, it’s a good way to start getting active if you’ve been inactive.

Woman helping man walk with a walker

Most people with disabilities are able to walk on their own, with walkers, or with other aids.

Health benefits

Like other kinds of regular physical activity, walking at a brisk pace also may offer health benefits, such as

Should I see a doctor before I start walking?

Woman walking with a young boy.

Most people do not need to see a doctor before they start a walking program.

Most people do not need to see a doctor before they start a walking program. However, you should check with your doctor if you

You also should talk with your doctor if, while walking, you get dizzy; feel faint or short of breath; or have chest, neck, shoulder, or arm pain.

How much should I walk?

Adults need 150 minutes, or 2.5 hours, per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity to stay healthy. Aerobic physical activity is activity that speeds up your heart rate and breathing. Brisk walking is an example of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. Walking briskly for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, will help you meet the goal of 150 minutes per week. But any 10-minute period of physical activity helps. If you can't walk for 30 minutes at a time, try breaking your activity into three 10-minute walks instead.

For more health benefits and to control your weight, you may need to walk more than 150 minutes a week. Aim for doubling the amount to 300 minutes each week, or about 1 hour a day on 5 days of the week. The more you walk, the more health benefits you may gain!

How do I begin?

Walking is an easy form of physical activity to start because many people can walk wherever they are, without days or weeks of preparing and planning. Follow these four steps:

1. Set goals and make a plan to reach them.

Setting realistic goals—such as walking 10 to 15 minutes, three times a week—and having a plan to reach them will improve your chances of sticking with a walking program.

Think about the following as you set your goals and create an action plan:

Goals

Action Plan

2. Be prepared.

Make sure you have everything you may need, such as

3. Get moving.

Divide your walk into three parts:

When walking, be sure to use proper form:

4. Add on.

As walking gets easier, start to go faster and farther. Add hills or some stairs to make your walks more challenging. Review the sample walking plan that follows for an idea of how to start and slowly increase walking.

Sample daily walking program

The sample walking program below is a guide to help you get started. Your walking sessions may be longer or shorter than this sample program, based on your ability. If you are walking less than three times per week, give yourself more than 2 weeks before adding time to your walk.

Warm-up Time
Walk Slowly

Brisk-walk Time

Cool-down Time
Walk Slowly and Stretch

Total Time

WEEKS 1–2

5 minutes

5 minutes

5 minutes

15 minutes

WEEKS 3–4

5 minutes

10 minutes

5 minutes

20 minutes

WEEKS 5–6

5 minutes

15 minutes

5 minutes

25 minutes

WEEKS 7–8

5 minutes

20 minutes

5 minutes

30 minutes

WEEKS 9–10

5 minutes

25 minutes

5 minutes

35 minutes

WEEKS 11–12

5 minutes

30 minutes

5 minutes

40 minutes

WEEKS 13–14

5 minutes

35 minutes

5 minutes

45 minutes

WEEKS 15–16

5 minutes

40 minutes

5 minutes

50 minutes

WEEKS 17–18

5 minutes

45 minutes

5 minutes

55 minutes

WEEKS 19–20

5 minutes

50 minutes

5 minutes

60 minutes

Should I stretch before I walk?

Research is ongoing about the best time to stretch. You may warm up before your walk by walking more slowly for a few minutes before picking up the pace. You may choose to stretch after you warm up and after you are done walking and cooling down. Cool down by walking slowly the last few minutes of your walk.

After you are done walking, gentle stretching may help make you more flexible. To stretch correctly, avoid bouncing or holding your breath. Do each stretch slowly and move only as far as you feel comfortable. Below are some examples of stretches you may want to try.

Side Reach

Silhouette illustration of woman stretching to the side.

Reach one arm over your head and to the side. Keep your hips steady and your shoulders straight to the side. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Wall Push

Silhouette illustration of woman stretching legs by pushing on a wall.

Lean your hands on a wall and place your feet about 3 to 4 feet away from the wall. Bend one knee and point it toward the wall. Keep your back leg straight with your foot flat and your toes pointed straight ahead. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat with the other leg.

Knee Pull

Silhouette illustration of woman stretching knee by pulling knee to chest.

Lean your back against a wall. Keep your head, hips, and feet in a straight line. Pull one knee toward your chest, hold for 10 seconds, and then repeat with the other leg.

Leg Curl

Silhouette illustration of woman stretching legs by curling leg up towards the buttock.

Pull your right foot toward your buttocks with your right hand. Stand straight and keep your bent knee pointing straight down. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat with your other foot and hand.

Hamstring Stretch

Silhouette illustration of woman stretching hamstring by sitting on a bench.

Sit on a sturdy bench or hard surface so that one leg is stretched out on the bench with your toes pointing up. Keep your other foot flat on the surface below. Straighten your back, and if you feel a stretch in the back of your thigh, hold for 10 seconds and then change sides and repeat. If you do not feel a stretch, slowly lean forward from your hips until you feel a stretch.

What about safety?

Some places are safer to walk when you are outdoors than others. Keep safety in mind as you plan when and where you will walk.

How can I make walking a habit?

The key to building any habit is to stick with the new behavior. Try these tips to help you stick with your walking routine:

Person checking a smartwatch on left wrist.

Devices such as pedometers and smartwatches may help you count steps, calories, and how far you walk.

With time, walking will become part of your daily life and may even make it easier to try other types of physical activity.

Clinical Trials

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and other components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct and support research into many diseases and conditions.

What are clinical trials, and are they right for you?

Clinical trials are part of clinical research and at the heart of all medical advances. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease. Researchers also use clinical trials to look at other aspects of care, such as improving the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses. Find out if clinical trials are right for you .

What clinical trials are open?

Clinical trials that are currently open and are recruiting can be viewed at www.ClinicalTrials.gov .

Alternate Versions

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.


Understanding Adult Overweight & Obesity

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Definition & Facts

What are overweight and obesity?

The terms “overweight” and “obesity” refer to body weight that is greater than what is considered normal or healthy for a certain height. Overweight is generally due to extra body fat. However, overweight may also be due to extra muscle, bone, or water. People who have obesity usually have too much body fat.

Your body mass index (BMI) is one way to tell if you are at a healthy weight, overweight, or have obesity. The BMI is a measure based on your weight in relation to your height. The greater your BMI, the greater your risk of health problems from overweight and obesity.

Reaching and staying at a healthy weight may be a long-term challenge if you are overweight or have obesity. Maintaining a healthy weight—or at least not gaining more weight if you are already overweight—can help lower your chance of developing certain health problems.

Overweight family walking together outdoors.

More than 1 in 3 U.S. adults are considered to have obesity.

How common is overweight and obesity?

According to a national U.S. survey

For more statistics on overweight and obesity in the United States, see NIDDK’s Overweight & Obesity Statistics.

Who is more likely to be overweight?

Men are more likely than women to be overweight.3

Who is more likely to have obesity?

According to a national U.S. survey, some groups are more likely to have obesity.2

Women are more likely than men to have obesity.2

Many factors play a role in who is more likely to have obesity, and these factors may affect people differently.

Why do people gain weight?

Many factors may cause weight gain and affect how much weight your body stores. When you take in more calories from food or beverages than you use up from physical activity and through daily living, such as sitting or sleeping, your body stores the extra calories. Over time, if you continue to consume more calories than you burn off, you will likely gain weight. Excessive weight gain may lead to overweight or obesity.

Who should lose weight?

Medical experts recommend that people who have obesity should lose weight.

Most people who are overweight and have one or more factors that raise their chance for heart disease should lose weight. These factors include

References

Factors Affecting Weight & Health

What factors affect weight and health?

Many factors can affect your weight and lead to overweight or obesity. Some of these factors may make it hard for you to lose weight or avoid regaining weight that you’ve lost.

Family history and genes

Overweight and obesity tend to run in families, suggesting that genes may play a role. Your chances of being overweight are greater if one or both of your parents are overweight or have obesity. Your genes may affect the amount of fat you store in your body and where on your body you carry the extra fat.

Race or ethnicity

Some racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to have obesity. Obesity rates in American adults are highest in African Americans, followed by Hispanics/Latinos, then Caucasians. This is true for men and women.4 While Asian American men and women have the lowest rates of obesity,4 they can still be at risk of diseases associated with obesity if they carry a lot of unhealthy fat in their abdomen—even when their body mass index (BMI) is lower.

Age

Many people gain weight as they age. Adults who have a normal BMI often start to gain weight in young adulthood and continue to gain weight until they are ages 60 to 65. In addition, children who have obesity are more likely to have obesity as adults.

Sex

In the United States, obesity is more common in black or Hispanic women than in black or Hispanic men.4 A person’s sex may also affect where the body stores fat. Women tend to build up fat in their hips and buttocks. Men usually build up fat in their abdomen or belly. Extra fat, particularly if it is around the abdomen, may put people at risk of health problems even if they have a normal weight.

Eating and physical activity habits

Your eating and physical activity habits may raise your chances of becoming overweight and having obesity if you

Where you live, work, play, and worship

Where you live, work, play, and worship may affect your eating and physical activity habits, and access to healthy foods and places to be active.

For example, living in an area that has a high number of grocery stores can increase your access to better quality, lower calorie foods. Living in a neighborhood with a lot of green spaces and areas for safe physical activity may encourage you to be more physically active.

Where you work and worship may also make it easier for you to eat unhealthy, high-calorie foods. Vending machines, cafeterias, or special events at your workplace or place of worship may not offer healthy, lower calorie options. Whenever possible, choose the healthier options and limit your treats to a small sliver of pie or cake.

Family habits and culture

Family eating and lifestyle habits may affect your weight and health. Some families may consume foods and beverages that are high in fat, salt, and added sugars or eat large amounts of unhealthy foods at family gatherings. Some families may also spend a lot of inactive time watching TV, using a computer, or using a mobile device instead of being active.

Your social, ethnic, or religious group culture may also affect your weight and health because of shared eating and lifestyle habits. Some cultures may consume foods and beverages that are high in fat, salt, and added sugars. Some common food preparation methods, such as frying, may lead to high-calorie intake. Regularly consuming foods high in calories, fat, and sugar may lead to weight gain overtime.

Not enough sleep

People who don’t get enough sleep may eat more calories and snack more. Experts recommend that adults ages 18 to 64 get 7 to 9 hours of sleep a day, and that adults ages 65 and older get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a day.7

Other factors

Other factors that can lead to weight gain include

What makes it hard for some people to lose weight?

Many factors can make it hard to lose weight, including

References

Am I at a Healthy Weight?

How can I tell if I am at a healthy weight?

Knowing your body mass index (BMI), waist size, and waist-to-hip ratio can help you tell if you’re at a healthy weight.

Body mass index

The BMI is the tool most commonly used to estimate and screen for overweight and obesity in adults. BMI is a measure based on your weight in relation to your height. You can easily calculate your BMI .

Your BMI can tell if you are at a normal or healthy weight, are overweight, or have obesity. The greater your BMI, the greater your risk of health problems such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Because BMI doesn't measure actual body fat, a person who is very muscular, like a bodybuilder, may have a high BMI without having a lot of body fat. Also, some groups who tend to have a lower BMI, such as Asian men and women or older adults, may still have high amounts of body fat even if they are not overweight.

Waist size

Another important measure is your waist size. Having too much fat around your waist may raise your chances of health problems even more than having fat in other parts of your body. Women with a waist size of more than 35 inches and men with a waist size of more than 40 inches may be more likely to develop diseases related to obesity.

Doctor measuring a womanís waist.

Women with a waist size of more than 35 inches may be more likely to develop diseases related to obesity.

Does my body shape matter?

Doctors are concerned not only with how much body fat you have, but where the fat is located on your body. Women tend to build up fat in their hips and buttocks, giving them a “pear” shape. Men usually build up fat in their abdomen, giving them more of an “apple” shape. Of course, some men are pear-shaped, and some women are apple-shaped.

Extra fat, especially in the abdomen, may put people at risk for certain health problems, even if they have a normal weight. People who are apple-shaped may be more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease, or certain types of cancer than people of the same weight who are pear-shaped.

When should I seek a doctor’s help?

You should seek a doctor’s help if you are gaining weight quickly, have a large waist size, or a BMI of 30 or greater. You should also seek a doctor’s help if you are overweight or have obesity and have

Health Risks

Overweight and obesity may raise your risk for certain health problems and may be linked to certain emotional and social problems.

What are some health risks of overweight and obesity?

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. About 8 out of 10 people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or have obesity.8 Over time, high blood glucose leads to problems such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, eye problems, nerve damage, and other health problems.

If you are at risk for type 2 diabetes, losing 5 to 7 percent of your body weight and getting regular physical activity may prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a condition in which blood flows through your blood vessels with a force greater than normal. High blood pressure can strain your heart, damage blood vessels, and raise your risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and death.

Doctor checking the blood pressure of a man who has obesity.

Overweight and obesity may raise your risk for certain health problems such as high blood pressure.

Heart disease

Heart disease is a term used to describe several problems that may affect your heart. If you have heart disease, you may have a heart attack, heart failure, sudden cardiac death, angina , or an abnormal heart rhythm. High blood pressure, abnormal levels of blood fats, and high blood glucose levels may raise your risk for heart disease. Blood fats, also called blood lipids, include HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.

Losing 5 to 10 percent of your weight may lower your risk factors for developing heart disease. If you weigh 200 pounds, this means losing as little as 10 pounds. Weight loss may improve blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood flow.

Stroke

Stroke is a condition in which the blood supply to your brain is suddenly cut off, caused by a blockage or the bursting of a blood vessel in your brain or neck. A stroke can damage brain tissue and make you unable to speak or move parts of your body. High blood pressure is the leading cause of strokes.

Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a common disorder in which you do not breathe regularly while sleeping. You may stop breathing altogether for short periods of time. Untreated sleep apnea may raise your risk of other health problems, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that put you at risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. These conditions are

Fatty liver diseases

Fatty liver diseases are conditions in which fat builds up in your liver. Fatty liver diseases include nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Fatty liver diseases may lead to severe liver damage, cirrhosis, or even liver failure.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a common, long-lasting health problem that causes pain, swelling, and reduced motion in your joints. Being overweight or having obesity may raise your risk of getting osteoarthritis by putting extra pressure on your joints and cartilage.

Gallbladder diseases

Overweight and obesity may raise your risk of getting gallbladder diseases, such as gallstones and cholecystitis. Imbalances in substances that make up bile cause gallstones. Gallstones may form if bile contains too much cholesterol.

Some cancers

Cancer is a collection of related diseases. In all types of cancer, some of the body’s cells begin to divide without stopping and spread into surrounding tissues. Overweight and obesity may raise your risk of developing certain types of cancer .

Kidney disease

Kidney disease means that your kidneys are damaged and can’t filter blood like they should. Obesity raises the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure, the most common causes of kidney disease. Even if you don’t have diabetes or high blood pressure, obesity itself may promote kidney disease and quicken its progress.

Pregnancy problems

Overweight and obesity raise the risk of health problems that may occur during pregnancy. Pregnant women who are overweight or obese may have a greater chance of

What emotional and social problems are linked to overweight and obesity?

Overweight and obesity are associated with mental health problems such as depression . People who deal with overweight and obesity may also be the subject of weight bias and stigma from others, including health care providers. This can lead to feelings of rejection, shame, or guilt—further worsening mental health problems.

References

What options might help you lose weight?

Changing your eating habits is central to losing and maintaining your weight. To lose weight, you have to eat fewer calories and use more calories than you take in. This can be challenging for many people to do for an extended period of time. Emerging research shows that sticking with an eating plan may be more important to losing and maintaining weight than the type of eating plan you follow.

Follow a healthy eating plan

All your food and beverage choices count. Eating healthy is a journey shaped by many factors, including your age, weight, metabolism, food preferences, access to food, culture, and traditions; whether you are a man or woman; and the personal decisions you make over time. A healthy eating plan includes

A healthy eating plan also includes

To learn more about a healthy eating plan and the amounts of food and beverages that are right for you, visit ChooseMyPlate.gov .

A variety of healthy, nutritious foods

A healthy eating plan includes a variety of healthy, nutritious foods.

Get regular physical activity

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans define regular physical activity as at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking. A moderate-intensity aerobic activity makes your heart beat faster and makes you breathe harder but does not overwork or overheat you. This type of physical activity is safe for most people.

People with physical disabilities also can do certain activities, such as wheelchair aerobics or basketball. Talk with your doctor about the types of physical activity that might work well with your abilities.

If you have a health condition such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes, talk with your doctor before you start regular physical activity. Your doctor can review with you the types and amounts of physical activity that might suit your lifestyle, interests, and skills.

Read Tips to Help You Get Active.

What should I do to stay at a healthy weight?

Recent research has found there are many reasons why it is difficult to keep weight off after losing weight. In addition to metabolism slowing during weight loss, your body needs fewer calories at your new, lower weight. Hormonal and other factors also tend to promote weight regain. People who have kept weight off long-term report needing to keep careful track of their food intake and to do high levels of physical activity. Some people who have reached a healthy weight may find it hard to keep the weight off.

Keep track of your weight

Weigh yourself regularly. Keep a record of your weight to help make sure you are maintaining your weight loss and not regaining weight.

Stick to your healthy eating plan

Continue to make healthy food choices, and make following your healthy eating plan a lifelong habit. Find healthy food options that you prefer and enjoy, as you are more likely to stick with your eating plan.

Man eating fresh fruit from a bowl.

Continue to make healthy food choices to stay at a healthy weight.

Continue regular physical activity

Regular physical activity may help you keep from regaining weight you’ve lost. Aim for 200 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week to prevent regaining weight.9 Make regular physical activity a lifelong habit.

Take part in a weight-loss maintenance program

If you were overweight or had obesity and lost weight, your doctor may advise you to take part in a program to help you maintain your weight loss. The program may help you stick to your healthy eating and regular physical activity plan, and track your progress.

References

Treatment

Common treatments for overweight and obesity include losing weight through healthy eating, being more physically active, and making other changes to your usual habits. Weight-management programs may help some people lose weight or keep from regaining lost weight. Some people who have obesity are unable to lose enough weight to improve their health or are unable to keep from regaining weight. In such cases, a doctor may consider adding other treatments, including weight-loss medicines, weight-loss devices, or bariatric surgery.

Experts recommend losing 5 to 10 percent of your body weight within the first 6 months of treatment. [10] If you weigh 200 pounds, this means losing as little as 10 pounds. Losing 5 to 10 percent of your weight may

Healthy eating plan and regular physical activity

Following a healthy eating plan with fewer calories is often the first step in trying to treat overweight and obesity.

People who are overweight or have obesity should also start regular physical activity when they begin their healthy eating plan. Being active may help you use calories. Regular physical activity may help you stay at a healthy weight.

Learn more about healthy eating and physical activity to lose or maintain weight.

Family walking together outside.

When combined with healthy eating, regular physical activity will help you lose weight and stay at a healthy weight.

Changing your habits

Changing your eating and physical activity habits and lifestyle is difficult, but with a plan, effort, regular support, and patience, you may be able to lose weight and improve your health. The following tips may help you think about ways to lose weight, engage in regular physical activity, and improve health over the long-term.

Weight-management programs

Some people benefit from a formal weight-management program. In a weight-management program, trained weight-management specialists will design a broad plan just for you and help you carry out your plan. Plans include a lower-calorie diet, increased physical activity, and ways to help you change your habits and stick with them. You may work with the specialists on-site (that is, face-to-face) in individual or group sessions. The specialists may contact you regularly by telephone or internet to help support your plan. Devices such as smartphones, pedometers, and accelerometers may help you track how well you are sticking with your plan.

Some people may also benefit from online weight-management programs or commercial weight-loss programs.

Weight-loss medicines

When healthy eating and physical activity habits are not enough, your doctor may prescribe medicines to treat overweight and obesity.

You should try to stick with your healthy eating plan and continue getting regular physical activity while taking weight-loss medicines.

You may see ads for herbal remedies and dietary supplements that claim to help you lose weight. But many of these claims are not true. Some of these supplements can even have serious side effects. Talk with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter herbal remedies or dietary supplements for the purpose of trying to lose weight.

Weight-loss devices

Your doctor may consider weight-loss devices if you haven’t been able to lose weight or keep from gaining back any weight you lost with other treatments. Because weight-loss devices have only recently been approved, researchers do not have long-term data on their safety and effectiveness. Weight-loss devices include

Bariatric surgery

Bariatric surgery includes several types of operations that help you lose weight by making changes to your digestive system. Bariatric surgery may be an option if you have extreme obesity and haven’t been able to lose enough weight to improve your health or keep from gaining back the weight you lost with other treatments. Bariatric surgery also may be an option at lower levels of obesity if you have serious health problems, such as type 2 diabetes or sleep apnea, related to obesity. Bariatric surgery can improve many of the medical conditions linked to obesity, especially type 2 diabetes.

Special diets

Calorie-restricted diets

Your doctor may recommend a lower-calorie diet such as 1,200 to 1,500 calories a day for women and 1,500 to 1,800 calories a day for men. The calorie level depends on your body weight and physical activity level. A lower calorie diet with a variety of healthy foods will give you the nutrients you need to stay healthy.

Intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting is another way of reducing food intake that is gaining attention as a strategy for weight loss and health benefits. Alternate-day fasting is one type of intermittent fasting that consists of a “fast day” (eating no calories to one-fourth of caloric needs) alternating with a “fed day,” or a day of unrestricted eating. Researchers have conducted only a few studies of intermittent fasting as a strategy for weight loss. They have no long-term data on the safety and effectiveness of intermittent fasting for long-term weight maintenance.

References

Clinical Trials

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and other components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct and support research into many diseases and conditions.

What are clinical trials for overweight and obesity?

Clinical trials are part of clinical research and at the heart of all medical advances. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease. Scientists are conducting research to learn more about overweight and obesity, including studies on the role of dietary patterns in obesity development and treatment; novel behavioral, medication, device, and surgical approaches; and other research areas that can tell us more about why people develop obesity or respond to treatment. For example, scientists are conducting clinical trials to

Researchers also use clinical trials to look at other aspects of care, such as improving the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses. Find out if clinical trials are right for you .

What clinical trials for overweight and obesity are open?

Clinical trials funded by the NIH or other government agencies focused on treating or managing overweight and obesity that are currently open and recruiting can be viewed at www.ClinicalTrials.gov . This is a curated list of clinical trials, but you can expand or narrow your search to find more clinical trials for overweight and obesity.

What has research taught us about overweight and obesity?

The NIDDK has supported many research projects to learn more about overweight and obesity. Examples include:

February 2018

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Jamy D. Ard, Wake Forest Baptist Health, Wake Forest School of Medicine


Staying Active at Any Size

Physical activity may seem hard if you’re overweight. You may get short of breath or tired quickly. Finding or affording the right clothes and equipment may be frustrating. Or, perhaps you may not feel comfortable working out in front of others.

The good news is you can overcome these challenges. Not only can you be active at any size, you can have fun and feel good at the same time.

Can anyone be active?

Research strongly shows that physical activity is safe for almost everyone. The health benefits of physical activity far outweigh the risks.1

A woman exercising with small dumbbells in her hands

Physical activity is safe for almost everyone.

The activities discussed here are safe for most people. If you have problems moving or staying steady on your feet, or if you get out of breath easily, talk with a health care professional before you start. You also should talk with a health care professional if you are unsure of your health, have any concerns that physical activity may be unsafe for you, or have

Why should I be active?

Being active may help you live longer and protect you from developing serious health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer . Regular physical activity is linked to many health benefits, such as

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans define regular physical activity as at least 2½ hours a week of moderate-intensity activity, such as brisk walking. Brisk walking is a pace of 3 miles per hour or faster. A moderate-intensity activity makes you breathe harder but does not overwork or overheat you.

You may reach this goal by starting with 10 minutes of activity 3 days per week, and working up to 30 minutes a day 5 days a week. If you do even more activity, you may gain even more health benefits.1

When combined with healthy eating, regular physical activity may also help you control your weight. However, research shows that even if you can’t lose weight or maintain your weight loss, you still can enjoy important health benefits from regular physical activity.2,3

Physical activity also can be a lot of fun if you do activities you enjoy and are active with other people. Being active with others may give you a chance to meet new people or spend more time with family and friends. You also may inspire and motivate one another to get and stay active.

What do I need to know about becoming active?

Choosing physical activities that match your fitness level and health goals can help you stay motivated and keep you from getting hurt.1 You may feel some minor discomfort or muscle soreness when you first become active. These feelings should go away as you get used to your activity. However, if you feel sick to your stomach or have pain, you may have done too much. Go easier and then slowly build up your activity level. Some activities, such as walking or water workouts, are less likely to cause injuries.

If you have been inactive, start slowly and see how you feel. Gradually increase how long and how often you are active. If you need guidance, check with a health care or certified fitness professional.

Here are some tips for staying safe during physical activity:

A woman drinking water after sweating from exercising

Stay hydrated to replace the body fluids you lose through sweating.

If you don’t feel right, stop your activity. If you have any of the following warning signs, stop and seek help right away:

Check with a health care professional about what to do if you have any of these warning signs. If your activity is causing pain in your joints, feet, ankles, or legs, you also should consult a health care professional to see if you may need to change the type or amount of activity you are doing.

What kinds of activities can I do?

You don’t need to be an athlete or have special skills or equipment to make physical activity part of your life. Many types of activities you do every day, such as walking your dog or going up and down steps at home or at work, may help improve your health.

Try different activities you enjoy. If you like an activity, you’re more likely to stick with it. Anything that gets you moving around, even for a few minutes at a time, is a healthy start to getting fit.

Walking

Walking is free and easy to do—and you can do it almost anywhere. Walking will help you

If you are concerned about safety, try walking in a shopping mall or park where it is well lit and other people are around. Many malls and parks have benches where you can take a quick break. Walking with a friend or family member is safer than walking alone and may provide the social support you need to meet your activity goals.

If you don’t have time for a long walk, take several short walks instead. For example, instead of a 30-minute walk, add three 10-minute walks to your day. Shorter spurts of activity are easier to fit into a busy schedule.

A woman and a man walking.

If you don’t have time for a long walk, take several short walks instead.

Dancing

Dancing can be a lot of fun while it tones your muscles, strengthens your heart and lungs, and boosts your mood. You can dance at a health club, dance studio, or even at home. Just turn on some lively music and start moving. You also can dance to a video on your TV or computer.

If you have trouble standing on your feet for a long time, try dancing while sitting down. Chair dancing lets you move your arms and legs to music while taking the weight off your feet.

Bicycling

Riding a bicycle spreads your weight among your arms, back, and hips. For outdoor biking, you may want to try a mountain bike. Mountain bikes have wider tires and are sturdier than bikes with thinner tires. You can buy a larger seat to make biking more comfortable.

For indoor biking, you may want to try a recumbent bike. On this type of bike, you sit lower to the ground with your legs reaching forward to the pedals. Your body is in more of a reclining position, which may feel better than sitting straight up. The seat on a recumbent bike is also wider than the seat on a regular bike.

A woman exercising on a recumbent bike

For indoor biking, you may want to try a recumbent bike.

If you decide to buy a bike, check how much weight it can support to make sure it is safe for you.

Water workouts

Swimming and water workouts put less stress on your joints than walking, dancing, or biking. If your feet, back, or joints hurt when you stand, water activities may be best for you. If you feel self-conscious about wearing a bathing suit, you can wear shorts and a T-shirt while you swim.

Exercising in water

You don’t need to know how to swim to work out in water. You can do shallow- or deep-water exercises at either end of the pool without swimming. For instance, you can do laps while holding onto a kickboard and kicking your feet. You also can walk or jog across the width of the pool while moving your arms.

For shallow-water workouts, the water level should be between your waist and chest. During deep-water workouts, most of your body is underwater. For safety and comfort, wear a foam belt or life jacket.

Strength training

Strength training involves using free weights, weightlifting machines, resistance bands, or your own body weight to make your muscles stronger. Lower-body strength training will improve your balance and prevent falls.

Strength training may help you

If you are just starting out, using a weightlifting machine may be safer than dumbbells. As you get fit, you may want to add free-weight exercises with dumbbells.

You do not need a weight bench or large dumbbells to do strength training at home. You can use a pair of hand weights to do bicep curls. You can also use your own body weight: for example, get up and down from a chair.

A man lifting weights with a woman providing support

Strength training may help you build and maintain stronger muscles as you get older.

Proper form is very important when lifting weights. You may hurt yourself if you don’t lift weights properly. You may want to schedule a session with a certified fitness professional to learn which exercises to do and how to do them safely. Check with your health insurer about whether your health plan covers these services.

If you decide to buy a home gym, check how much weight it can support to make sure it is safe for you.

Mind and body exercise

Your local hospital or fitness, recreation, or community center may offer classes such as yoga, tai chi, or Pilates. You also may find some of these workouts online and can download them to a computer, smart phone, or other device. These types of activities may help you

A woman stretching

Your local hospital or fitness, recreation, or community center may offer classes such as yoga, tai chi, or Pilates.

These classes also can be a lot of fun and add variety to your workout routine. If some movements are hard to do or you have injuries you are concerned about, talk with the instructor about how to adapt the exercises and poses to meet your needs—or start with a beginner’s class.

Daily life activities

Daily life activities, such as cleaning out the attic or washing the car, are great ways to get moving. Small changes can add more physical activity to your day and improve your health. Try these:

Even a shopping trip can be exercise because it provides a chance to walk and carry your bags. Chores such as mowing the lawn, raking leaves, and gardening also count.

Where can I be active?

You can find many fun places to be active. Having more than one place may keep you from getting bored. Here are some options:

How can I get past my roadblocks?

You most likely will face roadblocks that keep you from meeting your physical activity goals. Think about what keeps you from being active, then try to come up with creative ways to address those roadblocks. Here are a few examples to help you get started:

Barrier

Solution

I don’t have enough time.

Instead of doing one long workout session, build in three 10-minute bursts of activity during your day, such as a brisk walk. Even standing up instead of sitting at your desk has benefits.

I just don’t like exercise.

Good news! You don’t have to run a marathon or go to the gym all the time to benefit from being active. To make physical activity more fun, try something you enjoy doing, such as dancing to the radio or taking a yoga class with friends. Many people find they start to like exercise better the more they do it.

I’m worried about my health or getting hurt.

If you have a hard time being active because of your health, talk with a health care professional first. A certified fitness professional can also guide you on how to be active safely.

I feel self-conscious working out in front of others.

Start being active at home until you feel more confident. Be active with friends who will support and encourage you.

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How can I stick with my physical activity plan?

Sticking with a plan to be physically active can be a challenge. Online tools such as the NIH Body Weight Planner can help. The NIH Body Weight Planner lets you tailor your calorie and physical activity plans to reach your personal goals within a specific time period.

A person tying their running shoes while wearing a fitness tracker band

Devices you can wear, such as pedometers and fitness trackers, may help you count steps, calories, and minutes of physical activity.

You also can download fitness apps that let you enter information to track your progress using a computer or smart phone or other mobile device.

Devices you can wear, such as pedometers and fitness trackers, may help you count steps, calories, and minutes of physical activity. Trackers can help you set goals and monitor progress. You wear most of these devices on your wrist like a watch, or clipped to your clothing.

Keeping an activity journal is another good way to help you stay motivated and on track to reach your fitness goals.

Set goals. As you track your activity, try to set specific short- and long-term goals. For example, instead of “I will be more active,” set a goal such as “I will take a walk after lunch at least 2 days a week.” Getting started with a doable goal is a good way to form a new habit. A short-term goal may be to walk 5 to 10 minutes, 5 days a week. A long-term goal may be to do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week.

Get support. Ask a family member or friend to be active with you. Your workout buddy can help make your activities more fun and can cheer you on and help you meet your goals.

Track progress. You may not feel as though you are making progress, but when you look back at where you started, you may be pleasantly surprised. Making regular activity part of your life is a big step. Start slowly and praise yourself for every goal you set and achieve.

Review your goals. Did you meet your goals? If not, why? Are they doable? Did you hit a roadblock trying to meet your goal? What will you do differently next week? Brainstorm some options to overcome future roadblocks. Ask a friend or family member to help support your goals.

Pick nonfood rewards. Whether your goal is to be active 15 minutes a day, to walk farther than you did last week, or simply to stay positive, recognizing your efforts is an important part of staying on track. Decide how you will reward yourself. Some ideas for rewards include getting new music to charge you up or buying new workout gear.

Be patient with yourself. Don’t get discouraged if you have setbacks from time to time. If you can’t achieve your goal the first time or can only stick to your goals for part of the week, remind yourself that this is all part of establishing new habits.

Look ahead. Try to focus on what you will do differently moving forward, rather than on what went wrong. Pat yourself on the back for trying.

Most importantly, don’t give up. Any movement, even for a short time, is a good thing. Each activity you add to your life is another step toward a healthier you.

References

Clinical Trials

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and other components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct and support research into many diseases and conditions.

What are clinical trials, and are they right for you?

Clinical trials are part of clinical research and at the heart of all medical advances. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease. Researchers also use clinical trials to look at other aspects of care, such as improving the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses. Find out if clinical trials are right for you .

What clinical trials are open?

Clinical trials that are currently open and are recruiting can be viewed at www.ClinicalTrials.gov .

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Richard Troiano, M.D., Captain, U.S. Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Keeping Active and Healthy Eating for Men

Take a minute to think about your weight, health, and lifestyle. Are you as fit and healthy as you would like to be? Do you think you might be carrying a little too much weight or body fat?

You can get on track with regular physical activity and healthy eating habits. By making small changes to your lifestyle, you may become leaner and energetic.

Keep reading for tips on how to get on track with healthy habits—chances are, you will find that it is not as hard as you thought.

What is a healthy weight?

Body mass index (BMI) is a tool that is often used to determine if a person is a healthy weight, overweight, or obese, and whether a person’s health is at risk due to his or her weight. BMI is a ratio of your weight to your height. You can refer to the chart below to find your BMI and see what a healthy weight range is for your height.

A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered healthy. A person with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and a person with a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese.

Another way to determine if your health is at risk because of your weight is to measure your waist. Waist measurement does not tell if you are overweight, but it does show if you have excess fat in your stomach. You should know that extra fat around your waist may raise your health risks even more than fat elsewhere on your body. Also, men are more likely than women to carry their extra weight around their stomach.

Men whose waists measure more than 40 inches may be at an increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and other problems.

A downside of using BMI is that it does not take into account whether body weight is due to muscle or fat. Therefore, someone who is very muscular may be thought to have excess fat, even if he has low or normal body fat. For the vast majority of Americans, though, BMI is a good way to tell if you have increased health risks due to your weight.

Table 1: Body Mass Index

To use the table, find the appropriate height in the left-hand column labeled Height. Move across to a given weight (in pounds).

The number at the top of the column is the BMI at that height and weight. Pounds have been rounded off.

Body Mass Index Table 1 of 2

Normal

Overweight

Obese

BMI

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

32

33

34

35

Height
(inches)

Body Weight (pounds)

58

91

96

100

105

110

115

119

124

129

134

138

143

148

153

158

162

167

59

94

99

104

109

114

119

124

128

133

138

143

148

153

158

163

168

173

60

97

102

107

112

118

123

128

133

138

143

148

153

158

163

168

174

179

61

100

106

111

116

122

127

132

137

143

148

153

158

164

169

174

180

185

62

104

109

115

120

126

131

136

142

147

153

158

164

169

175

180

186

191

63

107

113

118

124

130

135

141

146

152

158

163

169

175

180

186

191

197

64

110

116

122

128

134

140

145

151

157

163

169

174

180

186

192

197

204

65

114

120

126

132

138

144

150

156

162

168

174

180

186

192

198

204

210

66

118

124

130

136

142

148

155

161

167

173

179

186

192

198

204

210

216

67

121

127

134

140

146

153

159

166

172

178

185

191

198

204

211

217

223

68

125

131

138

144

151

158

164

171

177

184

190

197

203

210

216

223

230

69

128

135

142

149

155

162

169

176

182

189

196

203

209

216

223

230

236

70

132

139

146

153

160

167

174

181

188

195

202

209

216

222

229

236

243

71

136

143

150

157

165

172

179

186

193

200

208

215

222

229

236

243

250

72

140

147

154

162

169

177

184

191

199

206

213

221

228

235

242

250

258

73

144

151

159

166

174

182

189

197

204

212

219

227

235

242

250

257

265

74

148

155

163

171

179

186

194

202

210

218

225

233

241

249

256

264

272

75

152

160

168

176

184

192

200

208

216

224

232

240

248

256

264

272

279

76

156

164

172

180

189

197

205

213

221

230

238

246

254

263

271

279

287

Body Mass Index Table 2 of 2

Obese

Extreme Obesity

BMI

36

37

38

39

40

41

42

43

44

45

46

47

48

49

50

51

52

53

54

Height
(inches)

Body Weight (pounds)

58

172

177

181

186

191

196

201

205

210

215

220

224

229

234

239

244

248

253

258

59

178

183

188

193

198

203

208

212

217

222

227

232

237

242

247

252

257

262

267

60

184

189

194

199

204

209

215

220

225

230

235

240

245

250

255

261

266

271

276

61

190

195

201

206

211

217

222

227

232

238

243

248

254

259

264

269

275

280

285

62

196

202

207

213

218

224

229

235

240

246

251

256

262

267

273

278

284

289

295

63

203

208

214

220

225

231

237

242

248

254

259

265

270

278

282

287

293

299

304

64

209

215

221

227

232

238

244

250

256

262

267

273

279

285

291

296

302

308

314

65

216

222

228

234

240

246

252

258

264

270

276

282

288

294

300

306

312

318

324

66

223

229

235

241

247

253

260

266

272

278

284

291

297

303

309

315

322

328

334

67

230

236

242

249

255

261

268

274

280

287

293

299

306

312

319

325

331

338

344

68

236

243

249

256

262

269

276

282

289

295

302

308

315

322

328

335

341

348

354

69

243

250

257

263

270

277

284

291

297

304

311

318

324

331

338

345

351

358

365

70

250

257

264

271

278

285

292

299

306

313

320

327

334

341

348

355

362

369

376

71

257

265

272

279

286

293

301

308

315

322

329

338

343

351

358

365

372

379

386

72

265

272

279

287

294

302

309

316

324

331

338

346

353

361

368

375

383

390

397

73

272

280

288

295

302

310

318

325

333

340

348

355

363

371

378

386

393

401

408

74

280

287

295

303

311

319

326

334

342

350

358

365

373

381

389

396

404

412

420

75

287

295

303

311

319

327

335

343

351

359

367

375

383

391

399

407

415

423

431

76

295

304

312

320

328

336

344

353

361

369

377

385

394

402

410

418

426

435

443

Why do weight and lifestyle matter?

Being overweight, obese, or physically inactive may increase your risk for:

On the other hand, being active, eating healthier, and achieving and staying at a healthy weight may help:

Getting Fit

Pick an activity that you enjoy and will do. This activity should get your heart and breathing rates up, but is not so tiring that you cannot talk while doing it.

 

Types of Physical Activity

Moderate Intensity

Vigorous Intensity

  • brisk walking

  • weight training

  • recreational swimming

  • jogging

  • fast-paced sports, like football

Tips for Getting Fit

Visit the "ChooseMyPlate" website from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for information on healthy eating and physical activity at https://www.choosemyplate.gov .

Exercise Your Options

To get on track and stay on track, you should try different types of exercises and activities. The chart below lists several types of physical activity, provides examples of each, and describes how each activity is good for you.

 

Activity

Examples

Potential Benefits

Aerobic Exercise

Walking, jogging, swimming, biking

Improves fitness, burns calories, aids in weight loss, improves mental well-being

Strength Training

Weight machines, free weights, crunches, push-ups

Improves strength, increases muscle size, burns calories, aids in weight loss

Flexibility/Stretching

Traditional stretching, yoga, Tai Chi

Reduces injury risk, improves blood flow, helps recovery from muscle soreness

Sports

Basketball, racquetball, tennis, golf (if you walk the course)

Improves fitness, strength, and coordination; burns calories; adds variety

Lifestyle Activities

Washing the car, taking the stairs, mowing the lawn

Burns some calories and reduces health risks

Most men can safely increase their physical activity without consulting a health care professional, but men over age 40 and those with a history of coronary heart disease or diabetes, should speak with a health care professional before starting a vigorous exercise program.

Eating Smart

A Healthy Eating Plan = A Variety of Foods

Easy Tips for Eating Smart

Keeping Portions Under Control

Pay attention to the serving sizes listed on Nutrition Facts labels. For example, the label on a loaf of bread may list nutritional information for one slice. But if you eat two slices in a sandwich, you have eaten double the calories, fat, and other nutrients.

In addition to what you eat, how much you eat also affects your weight. The pictures below give you an idea of what portion sizes look like for some foods. Try to "eyeball" your portion sizes using everyday objects—it may help you control how many calories you consume.

Serving Sizes = Everyday Objects

1 cup of cereal = a fist

picture of a fist 

1/2 cup of cooked rice, pasta, or potato = 1/2 baseball

picture of half of a baseball 

1 baked potato = a fist

picture of a fist 

1 medium fruit = a baseball

picture of a whole baseball 

1/2 cup of fresh fruit = 1/2 baseball

picture of half of a baseball 

1 1/2 ounces of low-fat or fat-free cheese = 4 stacked dice

picture of four six-sided dice 

1/2 cup of ice cream = 1/2 baseball

picture of half of a baseball 

2 tablespoons of peanut butter = a ping-pong ball

picture of a ping-pong paddle and ball 

Eating slowly or eating from a smaller plate may help you control how much you eat. Before you reach for a second helping, stop and ask yourself if you are still truly hungry. When you eat out, try splitting a meal or dessert with a friend or significant other, or taking half of your meal home in a take-out container. You may save big on calories, and it is tough to beat two meals for the price of one.

Achieving Your Goals

Goals should be realistic and specific, so set yours carefully. Running a marathon is likely not the best goal for someone just starting to get in shape. Similarly, a goal such as "eating healthier" may not be helpful because it is too vague.

Set the Course

Focus on what you want to achieve in the short-term and over the long run. An example of a short-term goal might be to replace soda with water for a week. A good long-term goal might be to walk or run at least three times a week in preparation for an upcoming charity walk or fun run.

Expect Roadblocks

Everyone runs into roadblocks sometimes, so expect them, think of ways to overcome them, and get back on your feet if they set you back. Common roadblocks include:

To manage or overcome a setback:

Chart Your Progress

To track your efforts, simply jot down your physical activity or healthy eating choices for the day in a small notebook. Several websites also offer online physical activity and nutrition trackers for this purpose. See the "Additional Links" section at the end of the brochure for more information about these websites.

Stay Motivated

Setting goals may boost your motivation to eat smart and stay active. But you may need more sources of inspiration—so set rewards along with your goals. Examples might be new workout clothing after you complete a week of regular workouts, or buying a new CD when you lose 5 pounds.

Finally, try asking friends or family members to join you in eating healthier and being more active. Healthy choices become easier when everyone is working toward similar goals.

The Big Picture

Being more active and eating better are two of the best ways you can take care of yourself. Other ways to improve your physical and mental health include:

By rewarding yourself with a fit and healthy lifestyle, you are taking control of your future and setting an example that your family and friends can follow. That is really something to take pride in.

Clinical Trials

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and other components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct and support research into many diseases and conditions.

What are clinical trials, and are they right for you?

Clinical trials are part of clinical research and at the heart of all medical advances. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease. Researchers also use clinical trials to look at other aspects of care, such as improving the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses. Find out if clinical trials are right for you .

What clinical trials are open?

Clinical trials that are currently open and are recruiting can be viewed at www.ClinicalTrials.gov .

Alternate Versions

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
John M. Jakicic, Ph.D., Chair, Department of Health and Physical Activity, and Director, Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center, University of Pittsburgh


Health Tips for Pregnant Women

How can I use this publication?

This publication is one of several resources from WIN that may help you and your family. It gives you tips on how to eat better and be more active while you are pregnant and after your baby is born. Use the ideas and tips in this publication to improve your eating pattern and be more physically active.

These tips can also be useful if you are not pregnant but are thinking about having a baby! By making changes now, you can get used to new eating and activity habits and be a healthy example for your family for a lifetime.

Healthy Weight

Why is gaining a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy important?

Gaining the right amount of weight during pregnancy helps your baby grow to a healthy size. But gaining too much or too little weight may lead to serious health problems for you and your baby.

Too much weight gain raises your chances for diabetes and high blood pressure during pregnancy and after. If you are overweight when you get pregnant, your chances for health problems may be even higher. It also makes it more likely that you will have a hard delivery and need a cesarean section (C-section).

Gaining a healthy amount of weight helps you have an easier pregnancy and delivery. It may also help make it easier for you to get back to your normal weight after delivery. Research shows that a healthy weight gain can also lower the chances that you or your child will have obesity and weight-related problems later in life.

How much weight should I gain during my pregnancy?

How much weight you should gain depends on how much you weighed before pregnancy. See the following box on "Weight Gain during Pregnancy" for more advice.1

Weight Gain during Pregnancy

General weight-gain advice below refers to weight before pregnancy and is for women having only one baby.

 

If you are

You should gain about

underweight (BMI* less than 18.5)

28 to 40 pounds

normal weight (BMI of 18.5 to 24.9)

25 to 35 pounds

overweight (BMI of 25 to 29.9)

15 to 25 pounds

obese (BMI of 30+)

11 to 20 pounds

*The body mass index (BMI) measures your weight in relation to your height. See the Additional Links section for a link to an online BMI calculator.

It is important to gain weight very slowly. The old myth that you are "eating for two" is not true. During the first 3 months, your baby is only the size of a walnut and does not need very many extra calories. The following rate of weight gain is advised:

Talk to your health care provider about how much weight you should gain. Work with him or her to set goals for your weight gain. Take into account your age, weight, and health. Track your weight at home or at your provider visits using charts from the Institute of Medicine. See Weight Gain During Pregnancy: Reexamining the Guidelines for more Information.

Do not try to lose weight if you are pregnant. Healthy food is needed to help your baby grow. Some women may lose a small amount of weight at the start of pregnancy. Speak to your health care provider if this happens to you.

Healthy Eating

How much should I eat?

Eating healthy foods and the right amount of calories helps you and your baby gain the proper amount of weight.

How much food you need depends on things like your weight before pregnancy, your age, and how fast you gain weight. In the first 3 months of pregnancy, most women do not need extra calories. You also may not need extra calories during the final weeks of pregnancy.

Check with your doctor about this. If you are not gaining the right amount of weight, your doctor may advise you to eat more calories. If you are gaining too much weight, you may need to cut down on calories. Each woman's needs are different. Your needs depend on if you were underweight, overweight, or obese before you became pregnant, or if you are having more than one baby.

What kinds of foods should I eat?

A healthy eating plan for pregnancy includes nutrient-rich foods. Current U.S. dietary guidelines advise eating these foods each day:

A healthy eating plan also limits salt, solid fats (like butter, lard, and shortening), and sugar-sweetened drinks and foods.

Does your eating plan measure up? How can you improve your eating habits? Try eating fruit like berries or a banana with low-fat yogurt for breakfast, a salad with beans for lunch, and a lean chicken breast and steamed veggies for dinner. Think about things you can try. Write down your ideas in the space below and share them with your doctor.

For more about healthy eating, see the online program "Daily Food Plan for Moms ." It can help you make an eating plan for each trimester (3 months) of your pregnancy.

What if I am a vegetarian

A vegetarian eating plan during pregnancy can be healthy. Talk to your health care provider to make sure you are getting calcium, iron, protein, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and other needed nutrients. He or she may ask you to meet with a registered dietitian (a nutrition expert who has a degree in diet and nutrition approved by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, has passed a national exam, and is licensed to practice in your state) who can help you plan meals. Your doctor may also tell you to take vitamins and minerals that will help you meet your needs.

Do I have any special nutrition needs now that I am pregnant?

Yes. During pregnancy, you need more vitamins and minerals, like folate, iron, and calcium.

Getting the right amount of folate is very important. Folate, a B vitamin also known as folic acid, may help prevent birth defects. Before pregnancy, you need 400 mcg per day. During pregnancy and when breastfeeding, you need 600 mcg per day from foods or vitamins. Foods high in folate include orange juice, strawberries, spinach, broccoli, beans, and fortified breads and breakfast cereals.

Most health care providers tell women who are pregnant to take a prenatal vitamin every day and eat a healthy diet. Ask your doctor about what you should take.

What other new eating habits may helps my weight gain?

Pregnancy can create some new food and eating concerns. Meet the needs of your body and be more comfortable with these tips:

What foods should I avoid?

There are certain foods and drinks that can harm your baby if you have them while you are pregnant. Here is a list of items you should avoid:

Physical Activity

Should I be physically active during my pregnancy?

Almost all women can and should be physically active during pregnancy. Regular physical activity may

If you were physically active before you became pregnant, you may not need to change your exercise habits. Talk with your health care provider about how to change your workouts during pregnancy.

It can be hard to be physically active if you do not have child care for your other children, have not worked out before, or do not know what to do. Keep reading for tips about how you can work around these things and be physically active.

How much physical activity do I need?

Most women need the same amount of physical activity as before they became pregnant. Aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity per day on most days of the week. Aerobic activities use large muscle groups (back, chest, and legs) to increase heart rate and breathing.

The aerobic activity should last at least 10 minutes at a time and should be of moderate intensity. This means it makes you breathe harder but does not overwork or overheat you.

If you have health issues like obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, or anemia (too few healthy red blood cells), ask your health care provider about a level of activity that is safe for you.

How can I stay active while pregnant?

Even if you have not been active before, you can be active during your pregnancy by using the tips below:

How can I stay safe while being active?

For your health and safety, and for your baby's, you should not do some physical activities while pregnant. Some of these are listed below. Talk to your health care provider about other physical activities that you should not do.

Make a plan to be active while pregnant. List the activities you would like to do, such as walking or taking a prenatal yoga class. Think of the days and times you could do each activity on your list, like first thing in the morning, during lunch break from work, after dinner, or on Saturday afternoon. Look at your calendar or planner to find the days and times that work best, and commit to those plans.

Safety Dos and Don'ts

Follow these safety tips while being active.

Do...

Don't...

Choose moderate activities that are not likely to injure you, such as walking or aqua aerobics.

Avoid brisk exercise outside during very hot weather.

Drink fluids before, during, and after being physically active.

Don't use steam rooms, hot tubs, and saunas.

Wear comfortable clothing that fits well and supports and protects your breasts.

After the end of week 12 of your pregnancy, avoid exercises that call for you to lie flat on your back.

Stop exercising if you feel dizzy, short of breath, tired, or sick to your stomach.

 

 

ACTIVITY

WHEN

After the Baby is born

How can I stay healthy after my baby is born?

After you deliver your baby, your health may be better if you try to return to a healthy weight. Not losing weight may lead to overweight or obesity later in life. Returning to a healthy weight may lower your chances of diabetes, heart disease, and other weight-related problems.

Healthy eating and physical activity habits after your baby is born may help you return to a healthy weight faster and give you energy.

After your baby is born

How may breastfeeding help?

Breastfeeding may or may not make it easier for you to lose weight because your body burns extra energy to produce milk. Even though breastfeeding may not help you lose weight, it is linked to other benefits for mother and child.

Many leading health groups advise breastfeeding only for the first 6 months of the baby's life. This means that you should feed your baby only breast milk during this time—no other foods or drinks. Experts suggest that women breastfeed at least until the baby reaches 12 months. In months 6 through 12, you may give your baby other types of food in addition to breast milk.

Calorie needs when you are breastfeeding depend on how much body fat you have and how active you are. Ask your doctor how many calories you need.

Benefits of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding your baby

What else may help?

Pregnancy and the time after you deliver your baby can be wonderful, exciting, emotional, stressful, and tiring—all at once. These feelings may cause you to overeat, not eat enough, or lose your drive and energy. Being good to yourself can help you cope with your feelings and follow healthy eating and physical activity habits.

Here are some ideas that may help:

Lifespan tip sheet for pregnancy

Body mass index table

To use the table, find the appropriate height in the left-hand column labeled Height. Move across to a given weight (in pounds). The number at the top of the column is the BMI at that height and weight. Pounds have been rounded off.

Body Mass Index Table 1 of 2

Normal

Overweight

Obese

BMI

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

32

33

34

35

Height
(inches)

Body Weight (pounds)

58

91

96

100

105

110

115

119

124

129

134

138

143

148

153

158

162

167

59

94

99

104

109

114

119

124

128

133

138

143

148

153

158

163

168

173

60

97

102

107

112

118

123

128

133

138

143

148

153

158

163

168

174

179

61

100

106

111

116

122

127

132

137

143

148

153

158

164

169

174

180

185

62

104

109

115

120

126

131

136

142

147

153

158

164

169

175

180

186

191

63

107

113

118

124

130

135

141

146

152

158

163

169

175

180

186

191

197

64

110

116

122

128

134

140

145

151

157

163

169

174

180

186

192

197

204

65

114

120

126

132

138

144

150

156

162

168

174

180

186

192

198

204

210

66

118

124

130

136

142

148

155

161

167

173

179

186

192

198

204

210

216

67

121

127

134

140

146

153

159

166

172

178

185

191

198

204

211

217

223

68

125

131

138

144

151

158

164

171

177

184

190

197

203

210

216

223

230

69

128

135

142

149

155

162

169

176

182

189

196

203

209

216

223

230

236

70

132

139

146

153

160

167

174

181

188

195

202

209

216

222

229

236

243

71

136

143

150

157

165

172

179

186

193

200

208

215

222

229

236

243

250

72

140

147

154

162

169

177

184

191

199

206

213

221

228

235

242

250

258

73

144

151

159

166

174

182

189

197

204

212

219

227

235

242

250

257

265

74

148

155

163

171

179

186

194

202

210

218

225

233

241

249

256

264

272

75

152

160

168

176

184

192

200

208

216

224

232

240

248

256

264

272

279

76

156

164

172

180

189

197

205

213

221

230

238

246

254

263

271

279

287

Body Mass Index Table 2 of 2

Obese

Extreme Obesity

BMI

36

37

38

39

40

41

42

43

44

45

46

47

48

49

50

51

52

53

54

Height
(inches)

Body Weight (pounds)

58

172

177

181

186

191

196

201

205

210

215

220

224

229

234

239

244

248

253

258

59

178

183

188

193

198

203

208

212

217

222

227

232

237

242

247

252

257

262

267

60

184

189

194

199

204

209

215

220

225

230

235

240

245

250

255

261

266

271

276

61

190

195

201

206

211

217

222

227

232

238

243

248

254

259

264

269

275

280

285

62

196

202

207

213

218

224

229

235

240

246

251

256

262

267

273

278

284

289

295

63

203

208

214

220

225

231

237

242

248

254

259

265

270

278

282

287

293

299

304

64

209

215

221

227

232

238

244

250

256

262

267

273

279

285

291

296

302

308

314

65

216

222

228

234

240

246

252

258

264

270

276

282

288

294

300

306

312

318

324

66

223

229

235

241

247

253

260

266

272

278

284

291

297

303

309

315

322

328

334

67

230

236

242

249

255

261

268

274

280

287

293

299

306

312

319

325

331

338

344

68

236

243

249

256

262

269

276

282

289

295

302

308

315

322

328

335

341

348

354

69

243

250

257

263

270

277

284

291

297

304

311

318

324

331

338

345

351

358

365

70

250

257

264

271

278

285

292

299

306

313

320

327

334

341

348

355

362

369

376

71

257

265

272

279

286

293

301

308

315

322

329

338

343

351

358

365

372

379

386

72

265

272

279

287

294

302

309

316

324

331

338

346

353

361

368

375

383

390

397

73

272

280

288

295

302

310

318

325

333

340

348

355

363

371

378

386

393

401

408

74

280

287

295

303

311

319

326

334

342

350

358

365

373

381

389

396

404

412

420

75

287

295

303

311

319

327

335

343

351

359

367

375

383

391

399

407

415

423

431

76

295

304

312

320

328

336

344

353

361

369

377

385

394

402

410

418

426

435

443

Other publications in the Lifespan Series include the following:

Spanish-language publications in the Lifespan Series include the following:

References

Clinical Trials

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and other components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct and support research into many diseases and conditions.

What are clinical trials, and are they right for you?

Clinical trials are part of clinical research and at the heart of all medical advances. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease. Researchers also use clinical trials to look at other aspects of care, such as improving the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses. Find out if clinical trials are right for you .

What clinical trials are open?

Clinical trials that are currently open and are recruiting can be viewed at www.ClinicalTrials.gov .

Alternate Versions

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Carla Miller, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Ohio State University.


Stay Fit as You Mature

How can I stay fit and healthy as I mature?

Did you know people tend to gain weight as they get older? Many women notice they put on weight in the years leading to menopause—or when menstrual periods end—and that losing the extra weight is not that easy.

Overweight and obesity are major health problems for black women in particular. More than 80 percent of U.S. black adult women are overweight or have obesity.1

This web content is part of materials and a program called Sisters Together: Move More, Eat Better. The program encourages black women to improve their health by being more active and eating healthier foods. You may use the content to help you and other black women get healthy. It's never too early or too late to start making small changes to improve your health.

Why should I move more and eat better?

Being physically active and making healthy food choices may help lower your risk for a number of chronic health problems as you mature. If you’re overweight, have obesity, or are inactive, you may have a greater chance of developing

Besides improving your physical health, you also may reduce stress and become a role model for family members and friends.

Your family and friends can be a great source of support as you work to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Being healthy is important for them, too. Ask them to join your efforts. By making healthy choices together, you may find it’s easier to move more and eat healthier!

How can I add more movement to my daily routine?

Adding longer, brisk walks to your daily routine is one way most people can safely increase their physical activity level. However, if you have heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, or obesity—or symptoms of a health problem, like dizziness or chest pain—speak with a health care professional before starting a more intense physical activity program.

Aim to move for 30 minutes a day

Try to do at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most or all days of the week. Moderate activities are ones that you can talk, but not sing, while doing, such as brisk walking or dancing. These activities speed up your heart rate and breathing.

The U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend getting 150 total minutes of activity spread throughout the week. But any amount of moderate activity is better than none at all.

Start with 10

Fitting in physical activity is possible with some planning. However, if you don’t have the time or energy to do the whole 30 minutes at once, start with a 10-minute session three times a day—then move to 15 minutes twice a day.

You can work physical activity into your daily routine by taking a walk at lunch—if your job allows—or before and after work; parking farther from where you’re going and walking the rest of the way; and taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.

Strengthen your muscles

Also, try to do activities to strengthen your muscles at least twice a week. You can use hand weights or a rubber exercise band—or even two full cans of food or bottles of water. Muscle-strengthening activities are especially important for older women—who tend to lose muscle and bone every year. Activities to strengthen your muscles may help prevent or reduce this loss.

Woman sitting on a yoga mat on her living room floor, leaning on a balance ball, with a pair of weights and water bottle next to her.

Try to do activities to strengthen your muscles at least twice a week.

Battle your barriers

Different people may have different reasons for finding it hard to get moving. If some of the barriers below sound familiar, try the tips recommended after each barrier to help you overcome them.

“It’s too late for me to get physically active.”

It’s never too late to start moving more. You can be active at any age, and physical activity may help you manage conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis . Being more active may also help you

“Physical activity is a chore.”

Physical activity can be doable and fun. Try to

Women working in an outdoor community garden.

Start a garden in your yard or in a community space.

“I spend time and money on my hair and don’t want to mess it up.”

Your hairstyle doesn’t have to stand between you and your physical activity:

“It’s too expensive.”

You don’t have to spend a lot of money on a gym membership or fancy equipment to be active. You can use the world around you to stay healthy and fit for free or at a low cost:

“I don’t have enough time.”

No matter how busy you are, there are ways to fit in 30 minutes or more of physical activity each day:

“I’m not an athlete, so why strength train?”

Strength training, or lifting weights to build muscles and make you stronger, is good for everyone, including older adults. Strength training may help protect your bones and also help you do daily activities, such as lifting children or carrying groceries, more easily.

How can I start to eat healthier?

Small changes, such as cutting back on salt and swapping water or unsweetened tea for sugar-sweetened juices and sodas, can improve your eating habits. Cutting back on saturated fats, such as butter or margarine, and eating more unsaturated fats, such as olive oil and other vegetable oils, is another step in a healthier direction.

Watch when you eat, how much you eat, and what you eat

Be mindful of food portions, serving sizes, and following a healthy eating plan.

Woman and man sitting at a table at home and sharing a meal.

Be mindful of food portions, serving sizes, and following a healthy eating plan.

Make healthy meals that taste good

Fried foods and fatty meats may taste good, but they’re not healthy for your heart. Try the following to add flavor to your food:

You don’t have to spend a lot of money or time in the kitchen to eat well. Try these tips:

How can reading the Nutrition Facts label help me?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Nutrition Facts label appears on most packaged foods. The label tells you how many calories and servings are in a box, package, or can. The label also shows how many ingredients, such as fat, fiber, sodium, and sugar—including added sugars—are in one serving of food. You can use these facts to make healthy food choices.

Here are some tips for reading food labels:

Sample Nutrition Facts Label.

Photo courtesy: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Calories: All the information on a food label is based on the serving size. An FDA-updated food label lists “serving size,” “servings per container,” and “calories” in larger, bolder type to make it easier to see. In updating the label, the FDA revised the serving sizes of some products to more closely reflect how much people actually eat and drink. The FDA has information about the updated Nutrition Facts label .

% Daily Value: The % Daily Value, or % DV, shows how much a nutrient in one serving of food contributes to a total daily meal plan. Use the % DV to tell if a serving of the food is high or low in a nutrient and to compare food products. Foods that have more than 20% DV of a nutrient are high in that nutrient. Foods that have 5% DV or less are low in that nutrient. Limit the amount of cholesterol and sodium by looking for low DV percentages for these items.

Oils, solid fats, and added sugars: Solid fats such as butter, shortening, and stick margarine can have high levels of saturated fats or trans fats, which are not heart healthy. Read the ingredients list on a food product and choose foods low in saturated fat. Instead of solid fats, choose fats such as oils that come from plants and are liquid at room temperature. Plant-based oils include canola, corn, olive, soybean, and safflower.

Keep track of the added sugars you eat. Added sugars may often be “disguised” in ingredients lists: for example, corn syrup is an added sugar. Choose foods with little or no added sugar, like low-sugar cereals. Limit sugar-sweetened drinks.

Sodium: Eating less sodium may help lower blood pressure, which may help lower the risk of heart disease. Aim for less than 2,300 mg—or less than 1 teaspoon—per day of table salt. This amount includes sodium already in foods you eat, as well as extra salt you may add at the table or while cooking. When comparing food labels, choose foods low in sodium.

Fiber: Dietary fiber includes insoluble and soluble types. Insoluble fiber, found in foods like whole grains and vegetables, helps with digestion and keeping you regular. Soluble fiber, found in foods like oatmeal and beans—such as navy, black, and pinto beans—may improve your blood cholesterol and blood sugar. Other sources of fiber are peas, lentils, fruits, bran, and nuts. Leaving the peels on fruits and vegetables such as apples and tomatoes can add extra fiber as well. Choose foods high in dietary fiber .

Calcium: Most black women need more calcium , which helps build and maintain strong bones and teeth. Not enough calcium can lead to bone loss. Choose foods high in calcium and low in fat, such as low-fat or fat-free yogurt, milk, and cheese. You also can get calcium from

Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Choose foods high in vitamin D , such as low-fat or fat-free milk; and fresh, frozen, or canned salmon, shrimp, and light tuna. If you can’t digest milk, try soy milk with added calcium or lactose-free milk. Yogurt and hard cheeses like cheddar may also be easier to digest than milk. Be active outside in the sunlight (don’t forget sunscreen) to improve vitamin D levels naturally. Ask your health care provider if you should take vitamin D supplements.

Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 helps the body make red blood cells and maintain healthy nerve cells. Older adults often don’t absorb enough vitamin B12. Eat foods with added vitamin B12, such as cereals made from oat bran or whole-grain wheat bran. Ask a health care professional if you should take vitamin B12 supplements.

What should I do if I’m a vegetarian?

Many people are now getting more vegetables on their plates by skipping meat one or more days of the week or by becoming vegetarians. If you’re a vegetarian, you can get the nutrients you need by eating a variety of foods. Just make sure you watch your portions and work within the calorie guidelines based on your sex, age, and activity level.

Here are some ideas for people who prefer to eat mostly plant-based foods:

How can I eat well when away from home?

Busy lives can sometimes make it hard to cook and eat meals at home. Here are some ways to make healthy choices when you’re away from home:

I can do it!

Set healthy eating and physical activity goals—and move at your own pace to reach them. Ask family and friends for support. They can encourage you, help you overcome setbacks, and be there to celebrate your successes!

No matter what, keep trying—you can do it!

References

Clinical Trials

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and other components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct and support research into many diseases and conditions.

What are clinical trials, and are they right for you?

Clinical trials are part of clinical research and at the heart of all medical advances. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease. Researchers also use clinical trials to look at other aspects of care, such as improving the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses. Find out if clinical trials are right for you .

What clinical trials are open?

Clinical trials that are currently open and are recruiting can be viewed at www.ClinicalTrials.gov .

January 2018

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Carla Miller, Ph.D., Professor, Ohio State University


Tips to Help You Get Active

Return to Overview Page

Benefits

Why should I be physically active?

Physical activity is an important step you can take to improve your health and quality of life. Regular physical activity may help prevent or delay many health problems. Being active may help you look and feel better, both now and in the future.

So what’s stopping you? Maybe you think that physical activity is boring, joining a gym is costly, or fitting one more thing into your busy day is impossible.

This information may help you identify and beat your roadblocks to physical activity! Learn tips to create a plan to get moving or add more activity to your life.

What are the benefits of regular physical activity?

Physical activity has many benefits.

Improve your health
Regular physical activity may help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. If you have one of these health problems, physical activity may improve your condition.

Physical activity also may help you

  • reduce your risk for certain cancers , including colon and breast cancer

  • maintain your weight by balancing the number of calories you use with the number of calories you take in. To lose weight, you’ll need to use more calories than you take in.

Improve your quality of life
Regular physical activity also may improve your quality of life right now. Become more active and you may enjoy a happier mood, less stress, and a stronger body.

Who should be physically active?

Everyone can benefit from physical activity. Health benefits are possible for adults and youth from a range of racial and ethnic groups studied, and for people with disabilities.

Family walking through a park.

Enjoy a family walk. Physical activity provides health benefits across your life span.

The Federal Government developed physical activity guidelines for Americans for the amount, types, and intensity of physical activity you need to help you achieve many health benefits across your life span.

Starting Physical Activity

How much and what kinds of physical activity do I need?

Some physical activity is better than none. You can start slowly and build up from there.

If you are a healthy adult, the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans advise you to make aerobic and strengthening activities part of your regular routine. If you have a disability that keeps you from some activities, talk with your health care professional about types of physical activity that might work well with your abilities. If you have a health problem such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes, ask your health care professional about the types and amounts of physical activity that may work for you.

Aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity on most days.

Walking fast, jogging, dancing, or other types of aerobic activities make your heart beat faster and may cause you to breathe harder. Try to be active for at least 10 minutes at a time without breaks. You can count each 10-minute segment of activity toward your physical activity goal. Aerobic activities include

  • biking (Don’t forget the helmet.)

  • swimming

  • brisk walking

  • wheeling yourself in a wheelchair or engaging in activities that will support you such as chair aerobics

Try to do aerobic activities at a moderate intensity . Do the “talk test” to make sure you are exercising at a pace that you can maintain. You should be able to speak a few words in a row, but you should not be able to sing.

Happy couple jogging.

Aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity most days. Working out doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.

Aim for 60 to 90 minutes per day to gain more benefits.

You may need more than 30 minutes of aerobic activity on most days if your goal is to lose weight or to keep it off. Adding a brisk walk after lunch, dinner, or when your schedule permits may be one way to boost the amount of aerobic activity in your life.

Do strengthening activities twice per week.

Activities that make you push or pull against something may improve your strength and balance.

Build and maintain bone and muscle strength.
To help strengthen your whole body, work all major muscle groups, including those in your legs, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms. Doing 2 to 3 sets for each muscle group twice per week may help. Even 1 set of strength training offers benefits.

Try different activities to find ones you enjoy and to work different parts of your body , such as

  • Lifting weights

  • Working with resistance bands

Improve your balance.
Activities that build strength in your lower body may improve your balance. Try activities that work your ankles, feet, and lower legs .

Pilates and yoga may improve balance, muscle strength, and flexibility. You can also try tai chi or practice standing on one leg, if you are able to do so.

Older woman in a wheelchair working with resistance bands with help from a health care professional.

Use resistance bands to strengthen your muscles.

Take breaks from being still.

Recent studies suggest that long periods of inactivity may be linked to health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Add motion to your day. Download an app to your phone, computer, or other device to remind yourself to take breaks.

Routine tasks such as sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, and yard work can also be part of your physical activity plan.

How can I start to be active?

Pick an activity you enjoy.

Create a list of the activities you would like to do, such as walking, aerobics, tennis, wheelchair basketball, or taking a class at a fitness or community center. To increase your activity level, add an activity that sounds fun and try it out. You are more likely to stay active if you choose activities you enjoy.

Women stretching in a fitness class.

Choose activities that you enjoy.

Start slowly and add a little at a time.

The idea of being active 30 to 60 minutes each day may seem like too much at first. Start by moving for 10 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Every few weeks, add 5 to 10 minutes until you are active at least 30 minutes most days.

Set a goal, add it to your calendar, and do it.

Setting goals and having a plan to realize them may help you stick with a physical activity routine.

  • Set specific short-term goals that you can track. For example, instead of saying “I’m going to be more active this week,” set a goal of walking 30 minutes a day on 3 days this week.

  • Think of the days and times you could do the activity, such as first thing in the morning, during lunch breaks, after dinner, or on Saturday afternoon. Look at your calendar, phone, or computer to determine the days and times that work best and commit to those plans in writing. Also, set your phone to send reminders to help you stay on track.

How can I overcome physical activity roadblocks?

Starting a physical activity program and sticking with it may be easier than you think. You can overcome these common roadblocks to physical activity.

I don’t have time.

Are work, family, and other demands making it hard to be active? Try the tips below for adding physical activity to your daily routine. Remember, every little bit counts.

  • Do 10 minutes of physical activity at a time. Spread bursts of activity throughout your day.

  • Add a 15-minute walk or activity that you will stick with during your lunch break or after dinner.

  • Make activity part of your daily routine. If it is safe and you have time, walk a flight of stairs or, instead of driving, walk or bike with your child to school. If you have a physical disability, you can also use aids to build activity into your daily routine.

Woman with her arms raised over her head in a yoga pose.

Take a break from sitting at the computer or TV. Stretch or go for a short walk.

I’m not that motivated or interested.

Do you find it hard to get moving? Does working out seem like a chore? Here are some ideas that might keep you moving:

  • Switch it up. Try a new activity, such as dancing or water aerobics, to find out what you enjoy most.

  • Make it social. Involve your family and friends. Physical activity is good for them, too. Plan fun physical activities that allow you to spend quality time together and stay on track.

    • Meet a friend for workouts or train together for a charity event.

    • Join a class or sports league where people count on you to show up.

    • No matter what age your kids are, find an activity you can do together. Dance to music or play sports such as basketball or tennis, in a wheelchair if needed.

  • Seek support. Who will inspire you to get moving and help you reach your goals?

Make a list of the people—your partner, brother, sister, parent, kids, or friends—who can support your efforts to be physically active. Give them ideas about how they can help, such as praising your efforts, watching your kids, or working out with you.

Older woman doing tai chi outside.

Try tai chi, yoga, or other new activities to find one you enjoy.

It’s too cold, hot, or rainy.

You can reach your fitness goals in any weather.

  • Wear the right gear. A rain jacket, sun hat and sunscreen, or winter clothes will protect you and help you stick to your plans.

  • Find a place to stay active indoors. Download an app to your phone or other device to be active at home, or take an indoor class when the weather is bad. Your local community center or place of worship may offer low-cost options.

I’m afraid it will cost too much.

Getting physical activity doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.

  • Check out your local recreation (rec) or community center. These centers may cost less than other gyms, fitness centers, or health clubs. Find one that lets you pay only for the months or classes you want, instead of the whole year. If you have physical disabilities, ask if the center offers activities that suit your abilities.

  • Choose physical activities that do not require special gear or advanced skills. Turn on some music and host a dance party with friends and family.

Prepare to break through your roadblocks.

What are the top three things keeping YOU from being more active? Use your phone, calendar, or computer to make a list of any barriers that come to mind and how you can overcome them. For example:

Barrier: I don’t have anyone to watch my kids.
Solution: Be active with your child. You can take walks together or play games such as “catch” or basketball. You can also do seated activities such as wheelchair volleyball. Lifting or carrying a baby not only works your muscles, but helps you bond with your child. Some rec centers offer “baby and me” classes. Another option is to find child care. Ask whether your rec center has child care, or find a friend or family member you trust who is willing to watch your child while you exercise. Some people take turns watching each other’s children.

Keep Moving

If you have made an effort to fit more physical activity into your day, that is great! If you need motivation to keep it going, it may help to—

Track your progress.

Seeing your progress over time may help you keep at it. You can track your progress on paper, online, or with an app for your phone or computer. Monitor the type of activity you did, how long you did it, and how you felt. Use this information to chart your progress, overcome setbacks, stay motivated, and set new goals.

If you're looking for an online tool, the NIH Body Weight Planner lets you tailor your calorie and physical activity plans to reach your personal goals within a specific time period.

Another way to see your progress is on a smartphone, mobile device, or computer. You can download a fitness app that allows you to enter information and gauge your effort.

Devices such as pedometers and fitness trackers can help you count steps, calories, active minutes, hours of sleep, and more. You wear most of these devices on your wrist like a watch or clipped to your clothing. Some of the devices can also track your heart rate and how far you walk or run during a certain period of time.

Fitness tracker shown on a personís wrist.

You can wear a wristband fitness tracker to help keep count of your physical activity for the day.

Be safe.

Be sure to play it safe, regardless of which activities you choose. An injury could cause a setback, keep you from meeting your physical activity goals, and affect how active you are in the future.

  • Start slowly. If you are starting a new physical activity program, go slowly at first. Even if you are doing an activity that you once did well, begin little by little to lower your chance of injury or burnout.

  • Stay hydrated. Remember to drink liquids. Water is an option. Sports beverages have a lot of sugar, will add extra calories, and aren’t necessary for most moderate activity.

  • Listen to your body. Take it easy at first and see how you feel before trying more challenging workouts. Stop if you feel out of breath, dizzy, faint, or nauseated, or if you have chest pain or any other type of pain.

  • Address existing health issues. If you have an injury or health problem such as diabetes or heart disease, talk with your health care professional about how to add physical activity to your life safely.

  • Think ahead and plan for setbacks. Have options ready in advance in case of bad weather, injury, or other unusual events. If you do get off track, don’t give up. Regroup and focus on meeting your goal again as soon as you can.

Keep it going and build on your progress.

Choosing physical activities you enjoy and that match your interests and abilities may help you stick with them for the long run. You can try new activities, too. To add variety

  • do low-impact aerobics or water aerobics

  • walk on a treadmill or outdoors

  • try seated aerobics or wheelchair basketball

  • go on a bike ride (Don’t forget the helmet.)

Increase physical activity slowly over time.

As you reach your goals, think about how you can up the intensity or time spent being active. To reduce injury risk, increase physical activity gradually. First, increase the number of minutes you engage in an activity per session or the number of times that you do an activity each day or each week. For example, if you are walking 3 days a week, add another day. Later, up the intensity by walking faster or jogging.

Little by little, raise the number of times you do each strength-training activity. For instance, first work up to 2 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions with a 1-pound weight. When that is easy for you, consider trying the activity with a 2-pound weight. Make changes slowly. If you add weight, do fewer repetitions until you get used to the greater intensity.

As you build stronger muscles, consider new strengthening activities, too. Do moves that use your body weight and test your upper body strength, such as push-ups. Start with bent knee push-ups if your arms or stomach aren’t yet strong enough to support your full body weight.

Woman doing a bent knee push-up in her home.

Slowly build stronger muscles. When you are ready, try bent knee push-ups.

Reward yourself.

Give yourself a nonfood reward for meeting your goals. Think of rewards that may motivate you to do even more, such as trying a new, healthy recipe with friends; a fitness class at your home, work, or place of worship; or joining a local, low-cost recreation center.

Clinical Trials

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and other components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct and support research into many diseases and conditions.

What are clinical trials and are they right for you?

Clinical trials are part of clinical research and at the heart of all medical advances. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease. Researchers also use clinical trials to look at other aspects of care, such as improving the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses. Find out if clinical trials are right for you .

What clinical trials are open?

Clinical trials that are currently open and are recruiting can be viewed at www.ClinicalTrials.gov .

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Jessica L. Unick, Assistant Professor, The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Psychiatry and Human Behavior, The Miriam Hospital’s Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center


Prescription Medications to Treat Overweight and Obesity

What are overweight and obesity?

Health care providers use the Body Mass Index (BMI), which is a measure of your weight in relation to your height, to define overweight and obesity. People who have a BMI between 25 and 30 are considered overweight. Obesity is defined as having a BMI of 30 or greater. You can calculate your BMI to learn if you are overweight or obese. Being overweight or obese may increase the risk of health problems. Your health care provider can assess your individual risk due to your weight.

Obesity is a chronic condition that affects more than one in three adults in the United States. Another one in three adults is overweight. If you are struggling with your weight, you may find that a healthy eating plan and regular physical activity help you lose weight and keep it off over the long term. If these lifestyle changes are not enough to help you lose weight or maintain your weight loss, your doctor may prescribe medications as part of your weight-control program.

How do weight-loss medications work?

Prescription medications to treat overweight and obesity work in different ways. For example, some medications may help you feel less hungry or full sooner. Other medications may make it harder for your body to absorb fat from the foods you eat.

Who might benefit from weight-loss medications?

Weight-loss medications are meant to help people who may have health problems related to overweight or obesity. Before prescribing a weight-loss medication, your doctor also will consider

  • the likely benefits of weight loss

  • the medication’s possible side effects

  • your current health issues and other medications

  • your family's medical history

  • cost

Health care professionals often use BMI to help decide who might benefit from weight-loss medications. Your doctor may prescribe a medication to treat your overweight or obesity if you are an adult with

  • a BMI of 30 or more or

  • a BMI of 27 or more and you have weight-related health problems, such as high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes.

Weight-loss medications aren’t for everyone with a high BMI. Some people who are overweight or obese may lose weight with a lifestyle program that helps them change their behaviors and improve their eating and physical activity habits. A lifestyle program may also address other factors that affect weight gain, such as eating triggers and not getting enough sleep.

Can children or teenagers take weight-loss medications?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved most weight-loss medications only for adults. The prescription medication orlistat (Xenical) is FDA-approved for children ages 12 and older.

Can medications replace physical activity and healthy eating habits as a way to lose weight?

Medications don’t replace physical activity or healthy eating habits as a way to lose weight. Studies show that weight-loss medications work best when combined with a lifestyle program. Ask your doctor or other health care professional about lifestyle treatment programs for weight management that will work for you.

Two women walking down a paved road with earbuds in their ears.

Weight-loss medications don’t replace physical activity and healthy eating habits.


What are the benefits of using prescription medications to lose weight?

When combined with changes to behavior, including eating and physical activity habits, prescription medications may help some people lose weight. On average, people who take prescription medications as part of a lifestyle program lose between 3 and 9 percent more of their starting body weight than people in a lifestyle program who do not take medication. Research shows that some people taking prescription weight-loss medications lose 10 percent or more of their starting weight.1 Results vary by medication and by person.

Weight loss of 5 to 10 percent of your starting body weight may help improve your health by lowering blood sugar, blood pressure, and triglycerides. Losing weight also can improve some other health problems related to overweight and obesity, such as joint pain or sleep apnea. Most weight loss takes place within the first 6 months of starting the medication.

What are the concerns with using prescription medications to lose weight?

Experts are concerned that, in some cases, the side effects of prescription medications to treat overweight and obesity may outweigh the benefits. For this reason, you should never take a weight-loss medication only to improve the way you look. In the past, some weight-loss medications were linked to serious health problems. For example, the FDA recalled fenfluramine and dexfenfluramine (part of the “fen-phen” combination) in 1997 because of concerns related to heart valve problems.

Possible side effects vary by medication and how it acts on your body. Most side effects are mild and most often improve if you continue to take the medication. Rarely, serious side effects can occur.

Tips for Taking Weight-loss Medication

  • Follow your doctor's instructions about weight-loss medications.

  • Buy your medication from a pharmacy or web distributor approved by your doctor.

  • Take weight-loss medication to support your healthy eating and physical activity program.

  • Know the side effects and warnings for taking any medication.

  • Ask your doctor if you should stop taking your medication if you are not losing weight after 12 weeks.

  • Discuss other medications, including supplements and vitamins, you are taking with your doctor when considering weight-loss medications.

  • Avoid taking weight-loss medications during pregnancy or if you are planning a pregnancy.

Which weight-loss medication might work for me?

Choosing a medication to treat overweight or obesity is a decision between you and your doctor. Important factors to consider include

  • the likely benefits of weight loss

  • the medication’s possible side effects

  • your current health issues and other medications

  • your family’s medical history

  • cost

Doctor in lab coat weighing obese patient in blue shirt.

Talk with your doctor about which weight-loss medication might be right for you.

How long will I need to take weight-loss medication?

How long you will need to take weight-loss medication depends on whether the drug helps you lose and maintain weight and whether you have any side effects. If you have lost enough weight to improve your health and are not having serious side effects, your doctor may advise that you stay on the medication indefinitely. If you do not lose at least 5 percent of your starting weight after 12 weeks on the full dose of your medication, your doctor will probably advise you to stop taking it. He or she may change your treatment plan or consider using a different weight-loss medication. Your doctor also may have you try different lifestyle, physical activity, or eating programs; change your other medications that cause weight gain; or refer you to a bariatric surgeon to see if weight-loss surgery might be an option for you.

Because obesity is a chronic condition, you may need to continue changes to your eating and physical activity habits and other behaviors for years—or even a lifetime—to improve your health and maintain a healthy weight.

Will I regain some weight after I stop taking weight-loss medication?

You will probably regain some weight after you stop taking weight-loss medication. Developing and maintaining healthy eating habits and increasing physical activity may help you regain less weight or keep it off. Federal physical activity guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week for adults—that’s about 30 minutes a day most days of the week. You may need to do more to reach or maintain your weight-loss goal.

Will insurance cover the cost of weight-loss medication?

Some, but not all, insurance plans cover medications that treat overweight and obesity. Contact your insurance provider to find out if your plan covers these medications.

What medications are available to treat overweight and obesity?

The table below lists FDA-approved prescription medications for weight loss. The FDA has approved five of these drugs—orlistat (Xenical, Alli), lorcaserin (Belviq), phentermine-topiramate (Qsymia), naltrexone-bupropion (Contrave), and liraglutide (Saxenda)—for long-term use. You can keep taking these drugs as long as you are benefiting from treatment and not having unpleasant side-effects.

Some weight-loss medications that curb appetite are approved by the FDA only for short-term use, or up to 12 weeks. Although some doctors prescribe them for longer periods of time, not many research studies have looked at how safe and effective they are for long-term use.

Pregnant women should never take weight-loss medications. Women who are planning to get pregnant also should avoid these medications, as some of them may harm a fetus.

Prescription Medications Approved for Overweight and Obesity Treatment

Weight-loss medication

Approved for

How it works

Common side effects

Warnings

Orlistat (Xenical)

Available in lower dose without prescription (Alli)

Adults and children ages 12 and older

Works in your gut to reduce the amount of fat your body absorbs from the food you eat

  • diarrhea

  • gas

  • leakage of oily stools

  • stomach pain

Rare cases of severe liver injury have been reported. Avoid taking with cyclosporine . Take a multivitamin pill daily to make sure you get enough of certain vitamins that your body may not absorb from the food you eat.

Lorcaserin (Belviq)

Adults

Acts on the serotonin receptors in your brain. May help you feel full after eating smaller amounts of food.

  • constipation

  • cough

  • dizziness

  • dry mouth

  • feeling tired

  • headaches

  • nausea

Tell your doctor if you take antidepressants or migraine medications, since some of these can cause problems when taken together.

Phentermine-topiramate (Qsymia)

Adults

A mix of two medications: phentermine, which lessens your appetite, and topiramate, which is used to treat seizures or migraine headaches. May make you less hungry or feel full sooner.

  • constipation

  • dizziness

  • dry mouth

  • taste changes, especially with carbonated beverages

  • tingling of your hands and feet

  • trouble sleeping

Don’t use if you have glaucoma or hyperthyroidism. Tell your doctor if you have had a heart attack or stroke, abnormal heart rhythm, kidney disease, or mood problems.

MAY LEAD TO BIRTH DEFECTS. DO NOT TAKE QSYMIA IF YOU ARE PREGNANT OR PLANNING A PREGNANCY. Do not take if you are breastfeeding.

Naltrexone-bupropion (Contrave)

Adults

A mix of two medications: naltrexone, which is used to treat alcohol and drug dependence, and bupropion, which is used to treat depression or help people quit smoking. May make you feel less hungry or full sooner.

  • constipation

  • diarrhea

  • dizziness

  • dry mouth

  • headache

  • increased blood pressure

  • increased heart rate

  • insomnia

  • liver damage

  • nausea

  • vomiting

Do not use if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure, seizures or a history of anorexia or bulimia nervosa . Do not use if you are dependent on opioid pain medications or withdrawing from drugs or alcohol. Do not use if you are taking bupropion (Wellbutrin, Zyban).

MAY INCREASE SUICIDAL THOUGHTS OR ACTIONS.

Liraglutide (Saxenda)

Available by injection only

Adults

May make you feel less hungry or full sooner. At a lower dose under a different name, Victoza, FDA-approved to treat type 2 diabetes.

  • nausea

  • diarrhea

  • constipation

  • abdominal pain

  • headache

  • raised pulse

May increase the chance of developing pancreatitis. Has been found to cause a rare type of thyroid tumor in animals.

Other medications that curb your desire to eat include

  • phentermine

  • benzphetamine

  • diethylpropion

  • phendimetrazine

Adults

Increase chemicals in your brain to make you feel you are not hungry or that you are full.

Note: FDA-approved only for short-term use—up to 12 weeks

  • dry mouth

  • constipation

  • difficulty sleeping

  • dizziness

  • feeling nervous

  • feeling restless

  • headache

  • raised blood pressure

  • raised pulse

Do not use if you have heart disease, uncontrolled high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, or glaucoma. Tell your doctor if you have severe anxiety or other mental health problems.

How do doctors use prescription medications “off-label” to treat overweight and obesity?

Sometimes doctors use medications in a way that’s different from what the FDA has approved, known as “off-label” use. By choosing an off-label medication to treat overweight and obesity, your doctor may prescribe

  • a drug approved for treating a different medical problem

  • two or more drugs at the same time

  • a drug for a longer period of time than approved by the FDA

You should feel comfortable asking your doctor if he or she is prescribing a medication that is not approved just for treating overweight and obesity. Before using a medication, learn all you need to know about it.

What other medications for weight loss may be available in the future?

Researchers are currently studying several new medications and combinations of medications in animals and people. Researchers are working to identify safer and more effective medications to help people who are overweight or obese lose weight and maintain a healthy weight for a long time.

Future drugs may use new strategies, such as to

  • combine drugs that affect appetite and those that affect addiction (or craving)

  • stimulate gut hormones that reduce appetite

  • shrink the blood vessels that feed fat cells in the body, thereby preventing them from growing

  • target genes that affect body weight

  • change bacteria in the gut to control weight

References

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Kishore Gadde, M.D., Pennington Biomedical Research Center


Helping Your Child Who is Overweight

As a parent or other caregiver, you can do a lot to help your child reach and maintain a healthy weight. Staying active and consuming healthy foods and beverages are important for your child's well-being. You can take an active role in helping your child—and your whole family—learn habits that may improve health.

How can I tell if my child is overweight?

Being able to tell whether a child is overweight is not always easy. Children grow at different rates and at different times. Also, the amount of a child’s body fat changes with age and differs between girls and boys.

One way to tell if your child is overweight is to calculate his or her body mass index (BMI). BMI is a measure of body weight relative to height. The BMI calculator uses a formula that produces a score often used to tell whether a person is underweight, a normal weight, overweight, or obese. The BMI of children is age- and sex-specific and known as the “BMI-for-age.”

BMI-for-age uses growth charts created by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Doctors use these charts to track a child’s growth. The charts use a number called a percentile to show how your child's BMI compares with the BMI of other children. The main BMI categories for children and teens are

  • healthy weight: 5th to 84th percentile

  • overweight: 85th to 94th percentile

  • obese: 95th percentile or higher

Why should I be concerned?

You should be concerned if your child has extra weight because weighing too much may increase the chances that your child will develop health problems now or later in life.

In the short run, for example, he or she may have breathing problems or joint pain, making it hard to keep up with friends. Some children may develop health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Some children also may experience teasing, bullying, depression , or low self-esteem.

Children who are overweight are at higher risk of entering adulthood with too much weight. The chances of developing health problems such as heart disease and certain types of cancer are higher among adults with too much weight.

BMI is a screening tool and does not directly measure body fat or an individual child’s risk of health problems. If you are concerned about your child's weight, talk with your child’s doctor or other health care professional. He or she can check your child's overall health and growth over time and tell you if weight management may be helpful. Many children who are still growing in length don’t need to lose weight; they may need to decrease the amount of weight they gain while they grow taller. Don't put your child on a weight-loss diet unless your child’s doctor tells you to.

How can I help my child develop healthy habits?

You can play an important role in helping your child build healthy eating, drinking, physical activity, and sleep habits. For instance, teach your child about balancing the amount of food and beverages he or she eats and drinks with his or her amount of daily physical activity. Take your child grocery shopping and let him or her choose healthy foods and drinks, and help plan and prepare healthy meals and snacks. The 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines explain the types of foods and beverages to include in a healthy eating plan.

Here are some other ways to help your child develop healthy habits:

  • Be a good role model. Consume healthy foods and drinks, and choose active pastimes. Children are good learners, and they often copy what they see.

  • Talk with your child about what it means to be healthy and how to make healthy decisions.

    • Discuss how physical activities and certain foods and drinks may help their bodies get strong and stay healthy.

      • Children should get at least an hour of physical activity daily and should limit their screen time (computers, television, and mobile devices) outside of school work to no more than 2 hours each day.

    • Chat about how to make healthy choices about food, drinks, and activities at school, at friends’ houses, and at other places outside your home.

  • Involve the whole family in building healthy eating, drinking, and physical activity habits. Everyone benefits, and your child who is overweight won’t feel singled out.

  • Make sure you child gets enough sleep. While research about the relationship between sleep and weight is ongoing, some studies link excess weight to not enough sleep in children and adults.How much sleep your child needs (222 KB) depends on his or her age.

Family sitting at the family table eating a healthy meal.

You can be an important role model in helping your child build physical activity and healthy eating habits.

What can I do to improve my child’s eating habits?

Besides consuming fewer foods, drinks, and snacks that are high in calories, fat, sugar, and salt, you may get your child to eat healthier by offering these options more often:

  • fruits, vegetables, and whole grains such as brown rice

  • lean meats, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, soy products, and eggs, instead of meat high in fat

  • fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products or milk substitutes, such as soy beverages with added calcium and vitamin D, instead of whole milk or cream

  • fruit and vegetable smoothies made with fat-free or low-fat yogurt, instead of milk shakes or ice cream

  • water, fat-free, or low-fat milk, instead of soda and other drinks with added sugars

Smoothie with fruit.

Try replacing milk shakes or ice cream with fruit and vegetable smoothies.

You also may help your child eat better by trying to

  • Avoid serving large portions , or the amount of food or drinks your child chooses for a meal or snack. Start with smaller amounts of food and let your child ask for more if he or she is still hungry. If your child chooses food or drinks from a package, container, or can, read the Nutrition Facts Label (PDF, 753 KB) to see what amount is equal to one serving. Match your child’s portion to the serving size listed on the label to avoid extra calories, fat, and sugar.

  • Put healthy foods and drinks where they are easy to see and keep high-calorie foods and drinks out of sight—or don’t buy them at all.

  • Eat fast food less often. If you do visit a fast-food restaurant, encourage your child to choose healthier options, such as sliced fruit instead of fries. Also, introduce your child to different foods, such as hummus with veggies.

  • Try to sit down to family meals as often as possible, and have fewer meals “on the run.”

  • Discourage eating in front of the television, computer, or other electronic device.

Overweight boy with bowl of fruit.

Make healthy food options available and within easy reach of your child.

To help your child develop a healthy attitude toward food and eating:

  • Don’t make your child clean his or her plate.

  • Offer rewards other than food or drinks when encouraging your child to practice healthy habits. Promising dessert for eating vegetables sends a message that vegetables are less valuable than dessert.

Healthy snack ideas

To help your child eat less candy, cookies, and other unhealthy snacks, try these healthier snack options instead:

  • air-popped popcorn without butter

  • fresh, frozen, or fruit canned in natural juices, plain or with fat-free or low-fat yogurt

  • fresh vegetables, such as baby carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, or cherry tomatoes

  • low-sugar, whole-grain cereal with fat-free or low-fat milk, or a milk substitute with added calcium and vitamin D

How can I help my child be more active?

Try to make physical activity fun for your child. Children need about 60 minutes of physical activity a day, although the activity doesn't have to be all at once. Several short 10- or even 5-minute spurts of activity throughout the day are just as good. If your child is not used to being active, encourage him or her to start out slowly and build up to 60 minutes a day.

African American mom in pink shirt with kid on her back.

Reward your child’s efforts to become active and eat healthier with praise and love.

To encourage daily physical activity:

  • Let your child choose a favorite activity to do regularly, such as climbing a jungle gym at the playground or joining a sports team or dance class.

  • Help your child find simple, fun activities to do at home or on his or her own, such as playing tag, jumping rope, playing catch, shooting baskets, or riding a bike (wear a helmet).

  • Limit time with the computer, television, cell phone, and other devices to 2 hours a day.

  • Let your child and other family members plan active outings, such as a walk or hike to a favorite spot.

Where can I go for help?

If you have tried to change your family's eating, drinking, physical activity, and sleep habits and your child has not reached a healthy weight, ask your child’s health care professional about other options. He or she may be able to recommend a plan for healthy eating and physical activity, or refer you to a weight-management specialist, registered dietitian, or program. Your local hospital, a community health clinic, or health department also may offer weight-management programs for children and teens or information about where you can enroll in one.

What should I look for in a weight-management program?

When choosing a weight-management program for your child, look for a program that

  • includes a variety of health care providers on staff, such as doctors, psychologists and registered dietitians.

  • evaluates your child's weight, growth, and health before enrollment and throughout the program.

  • adapts to your child’s specific age and abilities. Programs for elementary school-aged children should be different from those for teens.

  • helps your family keep healthy eating, drinking, and physical activity habits after the program ends.

How else can I help my child?

You can help your child by being positive and supportive throughout any process or program you choose to help him or her achieve a healthy weight. Help your child set specific goals and track progress. Reward successes with praise and hugs.

Tell your child that he or she is loved, special, and important. Children's feelings about themselves are often based on how they think their parents and other caregivers feel about them.

Listen to your child's concerns about his or her weight. He or she needs support, understanding, and encouragement from caring adults.

References

What are clinical trials and what role do children play in research?

Clinical trials are research studies involving people of all ages. Clinical trials look at safe and effective new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease. Researchers also use clinical trials to look at other aspects of care, such as improving quality of life. Research involving children helps scientists

  • identify care that is best for a child

  • find the best dose of medicines

  • find treatments for conditions that only affect children

  • treat conditions that behave differently in children

  • understand how treatment affects a growing child’s body

Find out more about clinical trials and children .

What clinical trials are open?

Clinical trials that are currently open and are recruiting can be viewed at www.ClinicalTrials.gov .

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Elsie Taveras, M.D., Chief, Division of General Academic Pediatrics, MassGeneral Hospital for Children


Keeping Active and Healthy Eating for Men

Take a minute to think about your weight, health, and lifestyle. Are you as fit and healthy as you would like to be? Do you think you might be carrying a little too much weight or body fat?

You can get on track with regular physical activity and healthy eating habits. By making small changes to your lifestyle, you may become leaner and energetic.

Keep reading for tips on how to get on track with healthy habits—chances are, you will find that it is not as hard as you thought.

What is a healthy weight?

Body mass index (BMI) is a tool that is often used to determine if a person is a healthy weight, overweight, or obese, and whether a person’s health is at risk due to his or her weight. BMI is a ratio of your weight to your height. You can refer to the chart below to find your BMI and see what a healthy weight range is for your height.

A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered healthy. A person with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and a person with a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese.

Another way to determine if your health is at risk because of your weight is to measure your waist. Waist measurement does not tell if you are overweight, but it does show if you have excess fat in your stomach. You should know that extra fat around your waist may raise your health risks even more than fat elsewhere on your body. Also, men are more likely than women to carry their extra weight around their stomach.

Men whose waists measure more than 40 inches may be at an increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and other problems.

A downside of using BMI is that it does not take into account whether body weight is due to muscle or fat. Therefore, someone who is very muscular may be thought to have excess fat, even if he has low or normal body fat. For the vast majority of Americans, though, BMI is a good way to tell if you have increased health risks due to your weight.

Table 1: Body Mass Index

To use the table, find the appropriate height in the left-hand column labeled Height. Move across to a given weight (in pounds).

The number at the top of the column is the BMI at that height and weight. Pounds have been rounded off.

Body Mass Index Table 1 of 2

Normal

Overweight

Obese

BMI

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

32

33

34

35

Height
(inches)

Body Weight (pounds)

58

91

96

100

105

110

115

119

124

129

134

138

143

148

153

158

162

167

59

94

99

104

109

114

119

124

128

133

138

143

148

153

158

163

168

173

60

97

102

107

112

118

123

128

133

138

143

148

153

158

163

168

174

179

61

100

106

111

116

122

127

132

137

143

148

153

158

164

169

174

180

185

62

104

109

115

120

126

131

136

142

147

153

158

164

169

175

180

186

191

63

107

113

118

124

130

135

141

146

152

158

163

169

175

180

186

191

197

64

110

116

122

128

134

140

145

151

157

163

169

174

180

186

192

197

204

65

114

120

126

132

138

144

150

156

162

168

174

180

186

192

198

204

210

66

118

124

130

136

142

148

155

161

167

173

179

186

192

198

204

210

216

67

121

127

134

140

146

153

159

166

172

178

185

191

198

204

211

217

223

68

125

131

138

144

151

158

164

171

177

184

190

197

203

210

216

223

230

69

128

135

142

149

155

162

169

176

182

189

196

203

209

216

223

230

236

70

132

139

146

153

160

167

174

181

188

195

202

209

216

222

229

236

243

71

136

143

150

157

165

172

179

186

193

200

208

215

222

229

236

243

250

72

140

147

154

162

169

177

184

191

199

206

213

221

228

235

242

250

258

73

144

151

159

166

174

182

189

197

204

212

219

227

235

242

250

257

265

74

148

155

163

171

179

186

194

202

210

218

225

233

241

249

256

264

272

75

152

160

168

176

184

192

200

208

216

224

232

240

248

256

264

272

279

76

156

164

172

180

189

197

205

213

221

230

238

246

254

263

271

279

287

Body Mass Index Table 2 of 2

Obese

Extreme Obesity

BMI

36

37

38

39

40

41

42

43

44

45

46

47

48

49

50

51

52

53

54

Height
(inches)

Body Weight (pounds)

58

172

177

181

186

191

196

201

205

210

215

220

224

229

234

239

244

248

253

258

59

178

183

188

193

198

203

208

212

217

222

227

232

237

242

247

252

257

262

267

60

184

189

194

199

204

209

215

220

225

230

235

240

245

250

255

261

266

271

276

61

190

195

201

206

211

217

222

227

232

238

243

248

254

259

264

269

275

280

285

62

196

202

207

213

218

224

229

235

240

246

251

256

262

267

273

278

284

289

295

63

203

208

214

220

225

231

237

242

248

254

259

265

270

278

282

287

293

299

304

64

209

215

221

227

232

238

244

250

256

262

267

273

279

285

291

296

302

308

314

65

216

222

228

234

240

246

252

258

264

270

276

282

288

294

300

306

312

318

324

66

223

229

235

241

247

253

260

266

272

278

284

291

297

303

309

315

322

328

334

67

230

236

242

249

255

261

268

274

280

287

293

299

306

312

319

325

331

338

344

68

236

243

249

256

262

269

276

282

289

295

302

308

315

322

328

335

341

348

354

69

243

250

257

263

270

277

284

291

297

304

311

318

324

331

338

345

351

358

365

70

250

257

264

271

278

285

292

299

306

313

320

327

334

341

348

355

362

369

376

71

257

265

272

279

286

293

301

308

315

322

329

338

343

351

358

365

372

379

386

72

265

272

279

287

294

302

309

316

324

331

338

346

353

361

368

375

383

390

397

73

272

280

288

295

302

310

318

325

333

340

348

355

363

371

378

386

393

401

408

74

280

287

295

303

311

319

326

334

342

350

358

365

373

381

389

396

404

412

420

75

287

295

303

311

319

327

335

343

351

359

367

375

383

391

399

407

415

423

431

76

295

304

312

320

328

336

344

353

361

369

377

385

394

402

410

418

426

435

443

Why do weight and lifestyle matter?

Being overweight, obese, or physically inactive may increase your risk for:

On the other hand, being active, eating healthier, and achieving and staying at a healthy weight may help:

Getting Fit

Pick an activity that you enjoy and will do. This activity should get your heart and breathing rates up, but is not so tiring that you cannot talk while doing it.

Types of Physical Activity

Moderate Intensity

Vigorous Intensity

  • brisk walking

  • weight training

  • recreational swimming

  • jogging

  • fast-paced sports, like football

Tips for Getting Fit

Visit the "ChooseMyPlate" website from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for information on healthy eating and physical activity at https://www.choosemyplate.gov .

Exercise Your Options

To get on track and stay on track, you should try different types of exercises and activities. The chart below lists several types of physical activity, provides examples of each, and describes how each activity is good for you.

Activity

Examples

Potential Benefits

Aerobic Exercise

Walking, jogging, swimming, biking

Improves fitness, burns calories, aids in weight loss, improves mental well-being

Strength Training

Weight machines, free weights, crunches, push-ups

Improves strength, increases muscle size, burns calories, aids in weight loss

Flexibility/Stretching

Traditional stretching, yoga, Tai Chi

Reduces injury risk, improves blood flow, helps recovery from muscle soreness

Sports

Basketball, racquetball, tennis, golf (if you walk the course)

Improves fitness, strength, and coordination; burns calories; adds variety

Lifestyle Activities

Washing the car, taking the stairs, mowing the lawn

Burns some calories and reduces health risks

Most men can safely increase their physical activity without consulting a health care professional, but men over age 40 and those with a history of coronary heart disease or diabetes, should speak with a health care professional before starting a vigorous exercise program.

Eating Smart

A Healthy Eating Plan = A Variety of Foods

Easy Tips for Eating Smart

Keeping Portions Under Control

Pay attention to the serving sizes listed on Nutrition Facts labels. For example, the label on a loaf of bread may list nutritional information for one slice. But if you eat two slices in a sandwich, you have eaten double the calories, fat, and other nutrients.

In addition to what you eat, how much you eat also affects your weight. The pictures below give you an idea of what portion sizes look like for some foods. Try to "eyeball" your portion sizes using everyday objects—it may help you control how many calories you consume.

Serving Sizes = Everyday Objects

1 cup of cereal = a fist

picture of a fist 

1/2 cup of cooked rice, pasta, or potato = 1/2 baseball

picture of half of a baseball 

1 baked potato = a fist

picture of a fist 

1 medium fruit = a baseball

picture of a whole baseball 

1/2 cup of fresh fruit = 1/2 baseball

picture of half of a baseball 

1 1/2 ounces of low-fat or fat-free cheese = 4 stacked dice

picture of four six-sided dice 

1/2 cup of ice cream = 1/2 baseball

picture of half of a baseball 

2 tablespoons of peanut butter = a ping-pong ball

picture of a ping-pong paddle and ball 

Eating slowly or eating from a smaller plate may help you control how much you eat. Before you reach for a second helping, stop and ask yourself if you are still truly hungry. When you eat out, try splitting a meal or dessert with a friend or significant other, or taking half of your meal home in a take-out container. You may save big on calories, and it is tough to beat two meals for the price of one.

Achieving Your Goals

Goals should be realistic and specific, so set yours carefully. Running a marathon is likely not the best goal for someone just starting to get in shape. Similarly, a goal such as "eating healthier" may not be helpful because it is too vague.

Set the Course

Focus on what you want to achieve in the short-term and over the long run. An example of a short-term goal might be to replace soda with water for a week. A good long-term goal might be to walk or run at least three times a week in preparation for an upcoming charity walk or fun run.

Expect Roadblocks

Everyone runs into roadblocks sometimes, so expect them, think of ways to overcome them, and get back on your feet if they set you back. Common roadblocks include:

To manage or overcome a setback:

Chart Your Progress

To track your efforts, simply jot down your physical activity or healthy eating choices for the day in a small notebook. Several websites also offer online physical activity and nutrition trackers for this purpose. See the "Additional Links" section at the end of the brochure for more information about these websites.

Stay Motivated

Setting goals may boost your motivation to eat smart and stay active. But you may need more sources of inspiration—so set rewards along with your goals. Examples might be new workout clothing after you complete a week of regular workouts, or buying a new CD when you lose 5 pounds.

Finally, try asking friends or family members to join you in eating healthier and being more active. Healthy choices become easier when everyone is working toward similar goals.

The Big Picture

Being more active and eating better are two of the best ways you can take care of yourself. Other ways to improve your physical and mental health include:

By rewarding yourself with a fit and healthy lifestyle, you are taking control of your future and setting an example that your family and friends can follow. That is really something to take pride in.

Clinical Trials

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and other components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct and support research into many diseases and conditions.

What are clinical trials, and are they right for you?

Clinical trials are part of clinical research and at the heart of all medical advances. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease. Researchers also use clinical trials to look at other aspects of care, such as improving the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses. Find out if clinical trials are right for you .

What clinical trials are open?

Clinical trials that are currently open and are recruiting can be viewed at www.ClinicalTrials.gov .

December 2008

Alternate Versions

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
John M. Jakicic, Ph.D., Chair, Department of Health and Physical Activity, and Director, Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center, University of Pittsburgh


Take Charge of Your Health: A Guide for Teenagers

As you get older, you’re able to start making your own decisions about a lot of things that matter most to you. You may choose your own clothes, music, and friends. You also may be ready to make decisions about your body and health.

Making healthy decisions about what you eat and drink, how active you are, and how much sleep you get is a great place to start. Here you’ll learn

Don’t forget to check out the "Did you know?" boxes for even more helpful tips and ideas.

How does the body use energy?

Your body needs energy to function and grow. Calories from food and drinks give you that energy. Think of food as energy to charge up your battery for the day. Throughout the day, you use energy from the battery to think and move, so you need to eat and drink to stay powered up. Balancing the energy you take in through food and beverages with the energy you use for growth, activity, and daily living is called "energy balance." Energy balance may help you stay a healthy weight.

Photo of boys playing basketball Girl eating a salad and drinking water with lemon.

Your body needs energy to function. Calories from food and drinks give you that energy.

How many calories does your body need?

Different people need different amounts of calories to be active or stay a healthy weight. The number of calories you need depends on whether you are male or female, your genes, how old you are, your height and weight, whether you are still growing, and how active you are, which may not be the same every day.

How should you manage or control your weight?

Some teens try to lose weight by eating very little; cutting out whole groups of foods like foods with carbohydrates, or "carbs;" skipping meals; or fasting. These approaches to losing weight could be unhealthy because they may leave out important nutrients your body needs. In fact, unhealthy dieting could get in the way of trying to manage your weight because it may lead to a cycle of eating very little and then overeating because you get too hungry. Unhealthy dieting could also affect your mood and how you grow.

Smoking, making yourself vomit, or using diet pills or laxatives to lose weight may also lead to health problems. If you make yourself vomit, or use diet pills or laxatives to control your weight, you could have signs of a serious eating disorder and should talk with your health care professional or another trusted adult right away. If you smoke, which increases your risk of heart disease, cancer, and other health problems, quit smoking as soon as possible.

If you think you need to lose weight , talk with a health care professional first. A doctor or dietitian may be able to tell you if you need to lose weight and how to do so in a healthy way.

Choose Healthy Foods and Drinks

Healthy eating involves taking control of how much and what types of food you eat, as well as the beverages you drink. Try to replace foods high in sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat protein foods, and fat-free or low-fat dairy foods.

Fruits and Vegetables
Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables . Dark green, red, and orange vegetables have high levels of the nutrients you need, like vitamin C, calcium, and fiber. Adding tomato and spinach—or any other available greens that you like—to your sandwich is an easy way to get more veggies in your meal.

Grains
Choose whole grains like whole-wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal, and whole-grain cereal, instead of refined-grain cereals, white bread, and white rice.

Photo of  sliced loaf of whole grain bread on a cutting board

Choose whole grains, like whole-wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal, and whole-grain cereal.

Protein
Power up with low fat or lean meats like turkey or chicken, and other protein-rich foods , such as seafood, egg whites, beans, nuts, and tofu.

Dairy
Build strong bones with fat-free or low-fat milk products. If you can’t digest lactose—the sugar in milk that can cause stomach pain or gas—choose lactose-free milk or soy milk with added calcium. Fat-free or low-fat yogurt is also a good source of dairy food.

Fats
Fat is an important part of your diet. Fat helps your body grow and develop, and may even keep your skin and hair healthy. But fats have more calories per gram than protein or carbs, and some are not healthy.

Some fats, such as oils that come from plants and are liquid at room temperature, are better for you than other fats. Foods that contain healthy oils include avocados, olives, nuts, seeds, and seafood such as salmon and tuna fish.

Solid fats such as butter, stick margarine, and lard, are solid at room temperature. These fats often contain saturated and trans fats, which are not healthy for you. Other foods with saturated fats include fatty meats, and cheese and other dairy products made from whole milk. Take it easy on foods like fried chicken, cheeseburgers, and fries, which often have a lot of saturated and trans fats. Options to consider include a turkey sandwich with mustard or a lean-meat, turkey, or veggie burger.

Photo of bowl of almonds

Foods that contain healthy oils include avocados, olives, nuts, seeds, and seafood such as salmon and tuna fish.

Your body needs a small amount of sodium, which is mostly found in salt. But getting too much sodium from your foods and drinks can raise your blood pressure, which is unhealthy for your heart and your body in general. Even though you’re a teen, it’s important to pay attention to your blood pressure and heart health now to prevent health problems as you get older.

Try to consume less than 2,300 mg, or no more than 1 teaspoon, of sodium a day. This amount includes the salt in already prepared food, as well as the salt you add when cooking or eating your food.

Processed foods, like those that are canned or packaged, often have more sodium than unprocessed foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. When you can, choose fresh or frozen fruits and veggies over processed foods. Try adding herbs and spices instead of salt to season your food if you make your own meals. Remember to rinse canned vegetables with water to remove extra salt. If you use packaged foods, check the amount of sodium listed on the Nutrition Facts label. Figure 1 below shows an updated food label, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved for use on most packaged foods beginning in 2018.

Figure 1. Side-by-Side Comparison of Original and New Nutrition Facts Label

Graphics describing the original and the new nutritional facts labels, set side-by-side.

Current label                                                                     Updated label
Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Limit added sugars

Some foods, like fruit, are naturally sweet. Other foods, like ice cream and baked desserts, as well as some beverages, have added sugars to make them taste sweet. These sugars add calories but not vitamins or fiber. Try to consume less than 10 percent of your daily calories from added sugars in food and beverages. Reach for an apple or banana instead of a candy bar.

Photo of girl holding a red apple

Reach for an apple or a banana instead of a candy bar.

Control your food portions

A portion is how much food or beverage you choose to consume at one time, whether in a restaurant, from a package, at school or a friend’s, or at home. Many people consume larger portions than they need, especially when away from home. Ready-to-eat meals—from a restaurant, grocery store, or at school—may give you larger portions than your body needs to stay charged up. The Weight-control Information Network has tips to help you eat and drink a suitable amount of food and beverages for you, whether you are at home or somewhere else.

Photo of two veggie wraps with lettuce

When eating fast food, choose healthier options.

Don’t skip meals

Skipping meals might seem like an easy way to lose weight, but it actually may lead to weight gain if you eat more later to make up for it. Even if you’re really busy with school and activities, it’s important to try not to skip meals. Follow these tips to keep your body charged up all day and to stay healthy:

Did you know?

Photo of boy and girl sitting at kitchen counter eating breakfast

Teens who eat breakfast may do better in school. By eating breakfast, you can increase your memory and stay focused during the school day.

Get Moving

Physical activity should be part of your daily life, whether you play sports, take physical education (PE) classes in school, do chores, or get around by biking or walking. Regular physical activity can help you manage your weight, have stronger muscles and bones, and be more flexible.

Aerobic versus Lifestyle Activities
You should be physically active for at least 60 minutes a day . Most of the 60 minutes or more of activity a day should be either moderate or intense aerobic physical activity, and you should include intense physical activity at least 3 days a week. Examples of aerobic physical activity, or activity that makes you breathe harder and speeds up your heart rate, include jogging, biking, and dancing.

Photo of boy with bicycle helmet riding bicycle

Walk or bike around your neighborhood.

For a more moderate workout, try brisk walking, jogging, or biking on flat streets or paths. To pick up the intensity, turn your walk into a jog, or your jog into a run—or add hills to your walk, jog, or bike ride. You don't have to do your 60 minutes a day all at once to benefit from your activity.

Routine activities, such as cleaning your room or taking out the trash, may not get your heart rate up the way biking or jogging does. But they are also good ways to keep active on a regular basis.

Fitness apps that you can download onto your computer, smartphone, or other mobile device can help you keep track of how active you are each day.

Did you know?

Activities add up!

Photo of  boy sitting in wheelchair holding basketball

Shoot hoops for 30 minutes as part of your 60 minutes of daily physical activity.

Here's an example of how to fit 60 minutes of physical activity into your day:

10 minutes – to walk or bike to a friend's house
+
30 minutes – of playing basketball
+
10 minutes – of chasing the dog around the yard
+
10 minutes – to walk back home


= 60 minutes of activity!

Have fun with your friends

Being active can be more fun with other people, like friends or family members. You may also find that you make friends when you get active by joining a sports team or dance club. Mix things up by choosing a different activity each day. Try kickball, flashlight tag, or other activities that get you moving, like walking around the mall. Involve your friends and challenge them to be healthy with you. Sign up for active events together, like charity walks, fun runs, or scavenger hunts.

Take it outside

Maybe you or some of your friends spend a lot of time indoors watching TV, surfing the web, using social media, or playing video games. Try getting in some outdoor activity to burn calories instead. Here are other activities to try:

If you’re stuck indoors or don’t have a lot of time, try climbing up and down the stairs in your apartment or home. You can also find dance and other fitness and exercise videos online or on some TV channels. Some routines are only 15 or 20 minutes so you can squeeze them in between homework, going out, or other activities. You also can choose active sports games if you have a gaming system.

Get Enough Sleep

Sometimes it’s hard to get enough sleep, especially if you have a job, help take care of younger brothers or sisters, or are busy with other activities after school. Like healthy eating and getting enough physical activity, getting enough sleep is important for staying healthy.

You need enough sleep to do well in school, work and drive safely, and fight off infection. Not getting enough sleep may make you moody and irritable. While more research is needed, some studies have shown that not getting enough sleep may also contribute to weight gain.

If you’re between 13 and 18 years old, you should get 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night. Find out what you can do to make sure you get enough sleep .

Take Your Time

Changing your habits can be hard. And developing new habits takes time. Use the tips below and the checklist under “Be a health champion” to stay motivated and meet your goals. You can do it!

Planning Healthy Meals and Physical Activities Just for You

Being healthy sounds like it could be a lot of work, right? Well, it doesn't have to be. A free, online tool called the MyPlate Daily Checklist can help you create a daily food plan. All you have to do is type in whether you are male or female, your weight, height, and how much physical activity you get each day. The checklist will tell you how many daily calories you should take in and what amounts of fruit, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy you should eat to stay within your calorie target.

Another tool, called the NIH Body Weight Planner lets you tailor your calorie and physical activity plans to reach your personal goals within a specific time period.

For recipes to help you plan easy and healthy meals like the ones below, visit BAM! Body and Mind .

Breakfast: a banana, a slice of whole-grain bread with avocado or tomato, and fat-free or low-fat milk
Lunch: a turkey sandwich with dark leafy lettuce, tomato, and red peppers on whole-wheat bread
Dinner: two whole-grain taco shells with chicken or black beans, fat-free or low-fat cheese, and romaine lettuce
Snack: an apple, banana, or air-popped popcorn

Be a health champion

Spending much of your day away from home can sometimes make it hard to consume healthy foods and drinks. By becoming a “health champion,” you can help yourself and family members, as well as your friends, get healthier by consuming healthier foods and drinks and becoming more active. Use this checklist to work healthy habits into your day, whether you’re at home or on the go: