Exercise: If You’re Overweight

What are the benefits of exercise?

Exercise has many physical benefits. It can:

  • Increase your strength and energy
  • Help you lose excess body fat and keep a healthy weight
  • Help keep your bones strong throughout your lifetime
  • Lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar
  • Help you sleep

These physical effects decrease the risk of stroke, heart disease, and diabetes.

Exercise can also have emotional benefits, such as:

  • Lifting your mood
  • Improving how you feel about yourself
  • Reducing stress

How do I get started?

If you are overweight, you may have more challenges when you start to exercise:

  • It may be very hard to get up if you get down on the floor.
  • Your body may not let you get into some positions.
  • You may have trouble walking more than a couple of blocks because your feet or legs hurt, or you get short of breath.

Ask your healthcare provider about ways to exercise safely and comfortably without hurting yourself. It can help to work with a physical therapist or a personal trainer at first. They can help plan a program specific to your needs and help you learn how to do the exercises safely. It is important that you do exercises that are right for you at this stage. The wrong type of exercise can cause injury. Stay away from high-impact exercises such as running, jogging, and step aerobics until your muscles and joints are stronger.

If you haven’t been active, a good goal is to start doing something physical every day. Start slow and build up as you get more fit. For example:

  • If it’s hard for you to walk very far, try a recumbent bike, elliptical trainer, or treadmill. These machines are easier on your knees, hips, and joints.
  • If getting down on the floor is hard, try doing abdominal crunches in a chair. Do wall pushups rather than floor pushups.
  • Water exercise can be a good choice if you are more than 40 pounds overweight. When you are in the water, there is less weight and stress on your joints. This means that you may be able to exercise in the water with less pain. Some recreation centers and gyms offer water aerobics and water-walking classes. If you’re not ready to take a class, do your own workout for 10 minutes to start. You could try walking or running in the water. You could hold on to the side of the pool and kick your legs.

When you are working on losing weight, you should aim for at least 60 to 90 minutes of daily physical activity that requires moderate effort. This should be in addition to your regular activities. You don’t need to do 60 minutes all at once. Short 10 to 15 minute spurts of activity work well too. Give your body time to adjust to exercising. Don’t expect to get in shape in just a few weeks.

How do I make exercise part of my life?

  • Find ways to exercise that you enjoy. Think about your style. Do you like organized activities or exercising on your own? Do you need someone or something to help motivate you? If so, sign up for a class or workout with a friend or family member. It’s better to choose a form of exercise you’ll stick with than trying to do what burns the most calories.
  • Eat healthy meals that provide the right amount of calories for you to have the energy to exercise and keep a healthy weight.
  • Track your fitness goals. Write them down and put them in a place that you will see often, such as a note on the refrigerator or bathroom mirror. There are also web sites or apps that allow you to track your progress. Celebrate your successes.
  • Try working out with videos. You can get exercise videos for all levels of fitness. You can borrow them from your library, view them on Web sites, or buy them at stores or online.
  • Build up slowly to a level of activity that makes you breathe more heavily, increases your heart rate, and makes you sweat. Do not do so much that you strain your muscles or feel dizzy or sick to your stomach.
  • After a few weeks of walking or water exercise, add strength training, such as using weights, into your routine. Strength training will make your muscles stronger and able to work longer without getting tired. Muscle burns more calories than fat so as your muscle increases, so does your ability to burn calories.
  • If you get sick or get hurt, give yourself time to recover before exercising again. Then start slow and increase a little at a time.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-10-27
Last reviewed: 2014-10-27
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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