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5 Best Workouts for Overweight Exercisers

Learn how to start a workout routine if you are overweight or obese

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Updated June 27, 2014

weights on a rack at the gym
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Starting a new workout routine is hard for everyone, but it can be especially hard if you are overweight or obese. The health club environment can be intimidating and putting together a program on your own can be both uncomfortable and confusing.

But exercise for obese and overweight people is important. Not only will help you lose weight, but physical activity can also help you to change the way you feel about yourself, boost your mood, improve your health, and make daily activities more comfortable.

So how do you get started? First, you'll want to be sure that you are healthy enough for physical activity. Visit your health care provider and ask key questions about modification you might need to make.  Then choose a workout that you enjoy enough to stick to. These five programs are particularly well suited for larger exercisers. See what interests you, and then use the tips for getting started to begin your program.

5 Best Workouts for Overweight Exercisers

  1. Walking

    This seems like an obvious choice, but there is a reason that walking tops the list of the best exercise for just about everyone. Walking requires very little equipment and it can be done almost everywhere. Walking is low impact, improves strength and mobility in the lower body, and can be performed at a range of different intensities.

    Get equipped for walking by investing in a good pair of shoes. Visit a locally owned shoe store where a walking or shoe expert will recommend several brands and let you take a few out for a test drive.

    • Tips to start a walking program. If you are absolutely new to exercise, start by walking for just 10 or 15 minutes each day. Gradually add time so that you work towards one full 30-minute session. Don't worry about speed or pace in the beginning. Make consistency your goal.

      As your fitness level increases, see if you can begin to increase the speed and intensity of your workout. Researchers have found that a moderate intensity can be achieved by reaching a 100 step per minute pace, or 3000 steps in 30 minutes. An inexpensive pedometer will count steps for you.

  2. Aqua Jogging

    Water activities are particularly well suited for people who have painful joints or difficulty moving. But lap swimming is too intense for many people and water aerobics classes are not always available. A good alternative is aqua jogging.

    Aqua jogging is simply running in the water with the help of a buoyancy belt. You get all of the benefits of running or walking without the impact. Compare Prices online to find a buoyancy belt that meets your needs. Then find a deep pool and begin jogging!

    • Tips to start an aqua jogging program. Your feet shouldn't touch the bottom of the pool when you aqua jog. This may seem counter intuitive, but you move forward in your lap lane only by moving your legs against the water. It takes more effort than you might imagine, so start slowly and increase the duration of your workout as you begin to feel more fit.
  3. Group Exercise Classes

    One of the best ways to stick to an exercise program is to develop a social support system. Group exercise classes are a perfect place to find friends. But you'll want to be sure you find a class that meets your needs.

    Before you invest any money, preview the class by watching it first. Remember that it takes an overweight exerciser more time to move through certain movements so watch to see if the pace of the class is too fast. Also, watch how the instructor cues the choreography. A good teacher will give plenty of advance warning for movement or direction changes.

    • Tips to start an exercise class. Greet the instructor on your first visit. Introduce yourself and explain that you are starting a new workout program. By connecting with her, you send a message that you are open to feedback and encouragement. The instructor should provide extra guidance and modifications to make sure you are comfortable during class.
  4. Strength Training

    There are many good reasons to start a strength training program. But for an overweight exerciser, there are special benefits. Strength training can correct postural issues that may arise from carrying extra weight.  Strength training can also increase the range of motion in all of your joints. Finally, when you build muscle you boost your metabolism when your body is at rest.

    You can start lifting weights at home, but this is one instance where joining a gym or hiring a trainer may be particularly beneficial. You can use a single session with a personal trainer to learn simple exercises to get you started and show you technique cues that will help you to keep your form in good shape.

    • Tips to start a strength training program. If you join a gym, you might find that some strength training machines are not made to accommodate a larger body. Even if you don't hire a trainer, the gym staff should be able to show you how to adjust equipment or use alternate exercises to work each muscle group.

      Remember to start slowly and don't do too much too soon. Consistency is the most important element of your new workout program, so the worst thing you can do is to overdo it on your first day so that you have to take a week off.

  5. Tai Chi

    Mind body exercise has become more accessible to the general public. Yoga, moving meditation and Qigong classes are easier to find. But sometimes they are difficult for overweight exercisers. Many balance-oriented yoga postures , for example, are difficult for people who are obese because they have a different center of gravity.

    Tai Chi uses a series of flowing movements to increase range of motion in the joints and incorporate some (usually standing) balance postures. Tai Chi also incorporates meditational elements that help to decrease stress and improve your sleep to lose weight.

    • Tips for Starting Tai Chi. As with any group exercise class, you should preview the program before you invest money. Ask the instructor if previous experience is necessary and what accommodations can be made for a new exerciser. Also, ask about the location. Some Tai Chi classes take place in outdoor parks or nature preserves. You'll want to be sure you are comfortable exercising in a public setting before you invest.
Remember that the type of exercise you choose is less important than the fact that you are doing it. Don't be afraid to try everything on the list! Keep a journal to track your progress and be sure to check in with your physician if you are having difficultly maintaining the activity or if other symptoms arise.

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