My 10 Exercise Tips for the Seriously Overweight

Heavy Ladies Exercising

I think most people, even many exercise instructors, don’t understand that exercising is not the same for the seriously overweight as it is for the “regular” overweight individual. When it is painful just to stand, not to mention to bend and twist, you can’t “just do it”. People think you should just get in there and go for it, but often, rather than doing yourself some good, you are doing further damage to already over-loaded joints and ligaments. I know cause I’ve been there. Here are my tips for ways to exercise without hurting yourself.

  1. If you’re seriously overweight, or have joint problems, exercise in the water. Adipose tissue (fat) floats and you will “weigh” much less in the water, and so can do much more without pain. And don’t worry about what you look like in a swimming suit. Other people are not nearly as judgemental of you as you are on yourself. Plus, you are doing it for your benefit, not theirs. I go to pools that will let me wear a tshirt and shorts.
  2. Do gentle exercises in bed. You won’t have to get down to the floor and back up. You can do leg lifts, twists, the cobra, any number of exercises.
  3. Check your cable provider for exercise programs. Time Warner Cable has “On Demand” exercise programs. They have 10 minutes programs and on up to full hour programs, with a variety of styles to choose from – pilates, yoga, kick-boxing, etc. It’s a great way to try out something new. Plus, if you can’t do a full hour, you can do the shorter programs, or just do part of the longer programs. I do mostly programs that are done on the floor.
  4. Look for exercise DVDs that are made specifically for overweight individuals. I have some for yoga and pilates. The exercises are modified for big bellys and other larger body parts. And some do exercises that they have determined are needed specifically by the seriously overweight person, like one that helps to strengthen your inner legs to help you get up more easily from a seated position.
  5. Know the difference between “good” pain and “bad” pain. Something that will give you sore muscles the next day is ok, but don’t force bad knees to do something like squats, or do anything that will cause further joint damage or further damage to a bad back, etc.
  6. Stand at your kitchen counter, put your hands on the counter, and lift your legs, (one at a time of course) to the front, side, and back, at least a couple of times for each leg.
  7. If you have to sit a lot at work, or at home because it is so hard to get up and do anything, try to make yourself get up and move around for 5 minutes of each hour. At least push your chair back from your desk, stretch your legs out and twist them around a little, and do some shoulder rolls and side stretches. It’s not good for you to sit for hours on end with only tiny bits of movement.
  8. If you watch TV, keep some simple exercise equipment near your seat and use it on the commercials. Some lightweight dumbbells, or some bands, or even a broom stick handle are things that you can easily reach over and grab for a couple of minutes of light exercise during commercials.
  9. If you can afford it, many community centers or Ys have warm water classes for people with arthritis. The warm water helps to loosen up your joints and muscles, and the exercises they do are gentle. These classes are also great for the seriously overweight.
  10. Remember that all movement counts. Try to move some everyday. You don’t have to do a structured hour of exercise that leaves you sweating and panting, you just need to move a little more than you normally would.
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