Easing Into Exercise When Obese

Anyone who is overweight to obese knows they should be exercising.  They hear it all the time.  They know their extra pounds is placing them at risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease and some forms of cancer.  They know and can feel the added stress and strain it places on their hip and knee joints. But for those of us who are not in that situation, we may not realize or understand the challenges of exercising when overweight to obese and how just being able to maneuver themselves to become more mobile can be daunting. 

It’s not that they necessarily don’t want to become more physically active and to get in better shape it’s that it is a real struggle to do so.  In more ways than we know.  Here are some of the challenges they face in fitting in exercise into their lives:

·         Going to a gym is intimidating

Even those of us who are experienced exercisers can find going to a gym to be somewhat intimidating.  Think of how scary this must be for someone who hasn’t exercised in quite some time and is far more overweight than most of the other people there.  Feelings of humiliation or “I can’t do this” are sure to arise making it hard for them to even want to show up. 

·         Getting into a swimsuit can be unnerving

Even the most in-shape people can feel slightly self-conscious about donning a swimsuit and being seen by others in it.  For those who are overweight to obese people it can take a lot of bravery to do so.  Swimming is a great exercise, particularly for those with joint issues caused by wear and tear due to excess weight. But the thought of walking around in a bathing suit can cause instant panic for some preventing them from even trying to work out.

·         Exercise equipment may not “fit” someone who is large

A lot of exercise equipment is built for those who are already in shape and are often not accommodating for those with a larger frame. Weight benches are often too narrow for larger bodies and many seats on strength machines are too small for larger hips. Even recumbent bikes which can be a very good option for overweight people often are built with seats that are too small. 

·         Participating in a group can be challenging

Many gyms offer group exercise classes where many of the moves can be difficult for someone who is large to perform.  Getting up and down from the floor can be a workout all on its own and many supine exercises cause breathing problems.  If a larger person has joint issues, doing squats or lunges can be out of the question.  Performing balance moves can be quite difficult to do also. 

How to make exercise happen for those who are overweight or obese

Those who are overweight to obese should first clear with their doctor approving them of beginning an exercise program.  Most doctors will highly encourage them to do so but it is advisable to be under some medical supervision at least initially.  Often a doctor will refer a person wanting to lose weight and get in shape to a team of medical experts to help them meet their goals – a certified athletic trainer or exercise physiologist, a registered dietitian, or an endocrinologist may be some of the team that can help be a part of helping them meet their goal of reaching a healthier body weight.

It is recommended to start off slowly choosing low-intensity aerobic activity appropriate for an obese individual.  This might include stationary cycling, recumbent cycling, seated stepping, seated aerobics and water aerobics. 

If a person feels very intimidated to work out on their own at a gym, there is the option of working with a personal trainer.  This can be an excellent way for anyone to lose weight and get healthy when a person has one-on-one attention on specific exercises planned for them.  They can meet with their personal trainer in private which can be more motivating for them to want to keep up with their exercise routine. 

Walking is often a good exercise to start off with for most people.  Using a pedometer can be an effective method of challenging oneself to get in more walking throughout the day, trying to beat the previous day’s number of steps.  Those with office jobs where they are seated most of the day, can make it a goal to get in at least 50 steps every hour while at work.  If they set a timer to go off every hour, this can be a reminder to take a quick walk to get in their required steps. 

For those who prefer working out in the comfort of their home there are online personal training sites that provide a person with a personal trainer to help them set up a workout.  In addition, You Tube has a ton of free exercise videos from aerobic to spot reduction to weight lifting that are very effective when done consistently. 

Consistency is key for anyone who wants to lose weight and achieve a healthier body.  Obese and overweight people can reach their weight loss goals when they make the exercise routine regular, consistent and fun.