Starting an exercise program isn’t easy. It requires time, patience, motivation and lots of courage.
Yet, it can be more challenging for someone who’s already overweight.
Here’s the truth, though.
If you’re overweight, building the exercise habit—even if it’s the last thing on your mind—is exactly what you need to do to get your health—and life—under control.
Regular exercise helps you lose weight, improves stamina, strengthens your muscles, protects your joints, reduces stress, prevents chronic conditions – and so much more.
And the good news is: even if you’re many pounds above the healthy range, there are measures you can take right now to get on the workout path without running your body into the ground.
Would you like to learn a few of the strategies? You’ve come to the right place. In this article, you’ll discover the basics of starting a workout routine when you’re overweight, as well as how to stick with it for the long haul.
1. Consult with your doctor
The first thing to do when planning to start an exercise routine is to consult your doctor or healthcare provider and get the “all-clear.”
Sure, exercise is a fantastic way of losing weight, improving strength and all of that. But to make sure you start on the right foot, a visit to your doctor is a must.
This is especially the case if you’re dealing with medical issues, such as diabetes, or are under medication.
During your medical exam, expect to undergo a thorough assessment. Issues to address include any history of cardiovascular disease, lung issues, kidney health, joint problems and medications.
There may be a lot to cover, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
2. Start walking
Got the green light from your doctor?
All in all, the best way to get into exercise when you’re overweight is to start out with walking. It’s free, burns a lot of calories, helps prevent chronic conditions such as osteoporosis—and so much more.
You can also walk every day. A weekly sample plan might include a 30-minute walk each day from Monday to Friday, then twice each day on Saturday and Sunday.
If you’re absolutely new to exercise and/or really of shape, start by walking for just 15 to 20 minutes each day, like looping around your neighborhood or simply exercising on the treadmill. As time passes, work your way up to a longer distance and hilled roads. Use a walking stick for balance if you need to. Don’t let any excuses get in your way!
You also shouldn’t worry about speed in the beginning. Instead, just focus on being consistent with your goal. As you get fitter, try to gradually increase the intensity and speed of your walks.
3. Try run-walking
Feel like you can tolerate some jogging during your walks? Then go ahead! I’d recommend trying the walk/run method, in which you alternate between periods of low intensity running and walking.
By far, this is the best way to get fit without getting hurt. The walk/run method helps transition your body into the world of running without putting too much stress on your body.
This not only helps prevent pain and injury but it also makes it more likely that you stick to the exercise routine long term.
Here’s how to proceed.
For the first few sessions, alternate between one-minute jogs and one to two minutes walks for 20 to 30 minutes.
As your fitness improves, spend more time jogging while taking fewer and shorter recovery breaks until you can run straight for 20-30 minutes at an easy pace.
How’s long it will take to get there is a personal matter—it largely depends on your current fitness level, your consistency and your current body weight.
4. Strength train
Strength training has a lot to offer—especially if you’re overweight.
In fact, when you’re obese, lifting weights can help you correct postural problems that might be caused by carrying extra weight.
It also helps strengthen your muscles, improve your range of motion and increase your metabolism—all of which can put you on the fast track toward living a healthier, fitter and more functional life. What’s not to like?
Here’s more good news. Just like walking, strength training is also easy to get into. In fact, you can start strength training at home with a few dumbbells or weights. You can also use your own bodyweight if you don’t have any equipment.
Ultimately, I’d recommend that you join a gym or hire a personal trainer to get started. With the help of a personal coach, you can learn proper technique from day one, which is key for avoiding injury and getting the most out of your workouts.
For an obese beginner, start by strength training the upper body first by doing simple and easy to perform moves—preferably exercises you can do while seated. Do chest presses, pushups on a wall and seated bicep curls. These exercises are simple to perform and work all of the major muscles in your upper body.
Shoot for eight to 12 reps on each set, completing four to five sets each session. As your form improves, build it up for ten sets of 8 to 10 reps of a challenging weight. As you get stronger, add a third day and focus on lower body exercises, such as air squats, static lunges and deadlifts.
5. Stay consistent
One of the most important elements—which may be more important than workout duration and frequency—is staying consistent, especially when you’re trying to make a new lifestyle change.
The more often you can commit to working out, the better off you’ll be.
Sure, you may think that exercising almost every day of the week is tricky, but as long as you dial in the intensity and pay attention to your body, there’s nothing wrong with exercising six times a week.
Once your endurance and strength improve, you lose some weight, and you are feeling good, start performing more intense sessions. I’d suggest that you come up with a simple contract or agreement with yourself, like” I’ll go walking three times this week.”
Keep in mind that when you sweat it out on a regular basis, even for a short period, you can still get fitter and reap some of the benefits of regular exercise.
6. Listen to your body
This is the most important piece of advice for starting an exercise routine—regardless of your bodyweight, fitness level or training goals.
Any time you go for a walk, hit the weight room, run or do another activity, be cautious not to overtrain. In fact, do too much too soon, and you’ll achieve nothing but setting yourself up for failure.
As a rule, learn how to read early signs of overtraining before it’s too late. Some of these include:
- Elevated resting heart rate
- General joint ache
- Persistent pains and aches
- Insomnia or difficulty staying asleep
- Loss of appetite
- Heart palpitations
- Intense chest pain
- Poor athletic performance
- Lack of focus and coordination
- Dizziness or vertigo while exercising
- Chronic fatigue
If you experience two or more of these symptoms, then you are likely overdoing it with your exercise routine. Take a few days and let your body recover. Rushing the process isn’t the way to go.