June 19, 2021
Regular exercise provides many benefits including:
· Higher quality sleep
· Improvements in executive function
· Reduced risk of clinical depression and depressive symptoms
· Reduced symptoms of anxiety
· Lowered risk of many diseases and conditions
The benefits of exercise for obese people go beyond just weight loss and may extend into other elements of overall health. Some recent research has suggested that even severely obese people can be fit and healthy, although other research suggests that may not be true.
While the outcomes (and the interpretation) of all this research is debated, there is one area where virtually all of it agrees: Some physical activity is better than none. According to the report from the Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee,
“A single bout of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity will reduce blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity, improve sleep, reduce anxiety symptoms, and improve cognition on the day that it is performed. Most of these improvements become even larger with the regular performance of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Other benefits, such as disease risk reduction and physical function, accrue within days to weeks after adopting a new physical activity routine.”
Most people face some barriers to fitness like lack of time, past failures, or health club fees. Obese beginners trying to develop a workout plan may have other challenges, too. Here are a few of the concerns that obese people have about exercise, mentioned in an article from the Obesity Medicine Association:
1. Exercise is difficult and uncomfortable.
2. Physical activity increases hunger and cravings.
3. Individuals with obesity are more prone to workout injuries.
4. Consistency is hard.
The article addresses each of these in turn, but the bottom line is that the benefits of developing an exercise program far outweigh the reasons for avoiding it – especially for obese beginners.
Obese people also experience the added challenge of even finding appropriate exercises. In a world seemingly obsessed with health and fitness, exercises for obese people are difficult to find, sometimes impractical, focus solely on weight loss, and often fail to consider the hurdles that obese people face. From machines at gyms that are not designed for larger bodies to training advice from unqualified people, the challenges can feel insurmountable.
But, they don’t have to be. One excellent option for obese people is bodyweight exercises at home, which use a person’s own body to generate resistance. Bodyweight exercises encompass a wide variety of physical activities, from commonplace ones like walking to more structured routines. Whether it’s a desire to lose weight, start exercising, or address other health issues caused by obesity, there are many benefits of bodyweight exercises.
· Can be done at home, in a hotel, outside, or anywhere there is space (and privacy)
· Easy to adjust to make them more (or less) challenging
· Can increase mobility
· Don’t have to take a lot of time
According to Live Healthy, “Bodyweight workouts strengthen your body for the sort of movements you make in everyday life…” That applies to bodies of all sizes.
Weight loss may be a goal of exercise for obese people, but that doesn’t have to be the case. While some may exercise to lose weight, there are many advantages to consistent exercise for people of all sizes. According to Harvard Health Publishing “We must not ignore the non-weight related benefits of exercise, including improvements in energy metabolism, oxidative stress, inflammation, tissue repair, and immunity.”
“As an obese person, I found bodyweight exercises at home to not only be more realistic but also more effective than other exercises.”
~ Hannah, age 26
As with all exercise programs, it’s important to consult a medical professional prior to starting bodyweight training. Many overweight and obese people have medical conditions or take medications that should be taken into consideration when planning a workout routine. Be upfront with your healthcare provider about your goals and your plans for achieving them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about any areas of concern or uncertainty. If weight loss is a goal, be sure to discuss your plans for nutrition as well.
Beyond the initial medical visit, getting started with home workouts for bodyweight training is easy. All you need is a space where you can comfortably exercise – and you!
But, take your time as you get started. Since your body is the source of resistance in bodyweight exercises, it’s tempting to think that they are all simple to do – and safe. But neither of those things is necessarily the case, particularly for beginners. Start slowly, feel what works for your body, and increase the difficulty level only as you are able. You wouldn’t start out trying to bench press your weight in a gym, so you shouldn’t expect to be a bodyweight superstar right from the start. All bodies have things that they can and can’t do, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
The exercises outlined here can support a variety of goals, from weight loss to improved cardiovascular fitness for beginners and more seasoned individuals as well. All can offer the general benefits of exercise like improved sleep, better mental focus, and less symptoms of depression. Most can be done by beginners from home, with no equipment other than a chair or counter. These exercises are great alternatives to going to the gym.
Here are a few general tips from the American Fitness Professionals Association that will help as you get started with your workout plan:
· Some positions may be difficult for obese people, especially beginners, so try to avoid any that are too challenging for you at the start – or modify them as needed. Each person’s body is unique, but modifications might include something like using a chair rather than the floor for some exercises.
· Exercises that raise your heart rate are recommended by most health experts, but high impact cardio exercises can lead to injury. Start with lower impact exercises that can still get your heart pumping.
· Try to keep it interesting by choosing different types of exercises – some cardio, some resistance, and targeting different areas of the body.
Pick a few exercises to start, then try adding new exercises to keep things interesting – and challenging! If you’d like some guidance to develop customized home workouts, consider the Systems2 at home fitness app. You can get personalized, professional guidance on which exercises to do and how to do them. And you’ll get your own elite human coach who will provide a personalized plan, tips and daily feedback for reaching all your health and fitness goals.
Regular walking is a great way to get in some daily physical exercise. Whether it’s outdoors or indoors, a simple walking routine is low impact and can lead to increases in cardio fitness, burn calories, increase energy levels, and build stamina.
For obese beginners, speed and duration are less important than consistency. Make getting some steps in part of your daily exercise routine, and increase as you feel that you are able.
Not sure that walking is worthwhile? Consider this: A 185-pound person walking at a 17 minutes per mile pace would burn 159 calories in an hour. (Compare this with 107 calories for a 125-pound person.)
Swimming is another excellent cardio exercise for obese people because it is the ultimate low-impact exercise, eliminating much of the weight bearing associated with other fitness activities. In the water, you can stretch your muscles and increase your mobility, and you have 80 – 90 percent less weight pulling and pressing at your bones and joints.
As with swimming, water aerobics is a good low-impact cardio choice for obese people because the water supports your body, minimizing impact and any pain in your knees or hips.
Physical activity needn’t be structured to be beneficial. Put on some music and dance around the house or do any other movement that increases your heart rate. Even a beginner just starting a workout routine can spend a few minutes each day in movement.
Stand with feet about hip distance apart, holding on to a counter or table top. Slowly bend the knees and lower the hips into a squat position, pushing the hips back. Try to prevent the knees from pushing too far forward. Return to the starting position by pressing through the foot.
Perform a body-weight squat as above, but while holding a light weight instead of using the counter for balance. (Anything can be used as a light weight, not just a piece of gym equipment.)
Stand in front of a bench or firm chair. Bring the buttocks back into a sitting position without fully being seated. Lift the body back into a standing position. To make the exercise more challenging, you can position your arms straight out in front of your body throughout the exercise.
Stand sideways near a wall, close enough that you can touch it for support if needed. (Alternatively, a heavy chair or other equipment can be used.) Place one foot about three feet in front of the other. With your torso upright, focus on contracting your abs and the muscles in your legs to support your joints. Bend both knees as far as you comfortably can, stopping if there is any pain. The goal is to have the front knee at a 90-degree angle and the back knee a few inches from the ground, but it may take practice to reach that position.
The reverse lunge is similar to the stationary lunge above but starts with the legs together. Take a large step backwards with one leg so that your feet are about three feet apart and dip down into a lunge position. Return to the starting position and repeat.
You can get in great shape with just an easy push up and sit up workout plan. Let’s go into quick details for doing different variations.
Standing a few feet away from a wall, position your hands about 12 inches wider than shoulder width on the wall. Press the upper body forward, keeping the elbows wide and aligned with the shoulders. After you become comfortable with this exercise, move from the wall to a counter or other stable surface that allows you to increase the angle of the body.
Standing a few feet from a wall, place forearms on the wall so that the body is inclined. Hold the position for as long as comfortable, then push the arms straight to move into a standing position.
Stand with feet about hip distance apart a few feet from a counter or chair. Place hands or forearms on the counter so that the whole body is inclined. Hold as long as comfortable before returning to a standing position.
From a kneeling position, bring the upper body forward so that the hands are planted on the ground directly beneath the shoulders. Hold as long as comfortable.
Similar to the high kneeling plank, but forearms should be on the ground instead of hands.
Stand upright. Squeezing your core and your glutes, extend one leg straight behind you, then return to the starting position. Repeat several times before switching to the other leg.
Stand tall with hands on your hips and feet shoulder width apart. With your weight on your right foot, slowly lift your left leg straight out in front of you, as high as you comfortably can. Lower your foot back down to starting position.
There are many exercise options for obese beginners. Give a few of these a try, and make a commitment to doing some form of physical activity regularly.
If you could use some additional advice and personalized guidance, try System2’s new 1-on-1 app, an innovative training solution that can help obese beginners get started with a regular exercise plan that they can commit to and that works.
System2 is a virtual training platform that pairs athletes with their own personal trainers. Using video combined with motion-analysis technology, users can work out at home while getting personalized feedback, direction, and motivation to work out from home by a certified personal trainer.
The best thing about it? The program is designed to meet you where you are in your fitness journey.
There are plenty of virtual home workout options, but several key factors set System2 apart.
System2’s AI-enhanced platform can help you reach your goals, and costs less than most gym memberships.
Written by: Rob Croll
Rob Croll is a writer, marketer, and educator with a passion for holistic wellness (and a whole lot of plants!)