Obesity and Exercise - Challenges and Training Ideas

What to do when you can't do regular exercise

Obesity and Exercise
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When it comes to the obesity problem in this country, we hear about the same old solutions again and again. These solutions range from gastric bypass surgery to the inevitable admonishing to go on a diet and start exercising. But with all this attention, there's one aspect of obesity no one's really talking about.

This missing link has to do with a very simple, yet troubling problem: If you're obese, meaning you have a BMI over 30, what happens if you can't do traditional exercises?

If you're a larger size, gym machines may be too small for you and some exercises are just downright impossible. There are solutions to these problems. You can exercise, even if you have to be creative to do it.

The Challenges of Being Obese

Besides the obvious challenges of being overweight or obese in our world, when it comes to exercise, plus-sized people have even more obstacles getting in their way. Some of these hurdles include:

  • Intimidation at the gym. Gyms can be scary even for the most experienced exerciser. Walking into a room full of exercisers, all of whom seem to know what they're doing, is hard for many of us. If you're overweight, you may feel even more self-conscious, as though everyone is staring at you. 
  • Confusion about cardio. Cardio exercise can be a challenge at a gym. Some of the problems you may face include:
    • Some machines are difficult to use or can cause knee or back problems.
    • Swimming is a recommended exercise for obese people, and while this is wonderful if you have a pool in your backyard, what if you don't? Walking around in a bathing suit causes instant panic for plenty of people, but perhaps even moreso if you're overweight.
    • Recumbent bikes are another good option for obese people. The problem is, many aren't built with big enough seats, and climbing onto them can be a real challenge.
    • Walking. This is a simple exercise that can be done anywhere, right? For people with joint or knee problems, walking isn't always comfortable, and some people even experience insults being thrown at them as their walking outside.
  • Strength-training issues. These are just a few of the problems you may encounter when you try strength training at the gym:
    • Weight benches are too narrow and/or too tall for larger bodies. Many seats on strength machines are too small for larger people.
    • Getting up and down from the floor is a workout all on its own, and many exercises that require lying down could cause problems breathing.
    • Many overweight people carry weight around their bellies, which makes some exercises impossible.
    • Traditional leg exercises, such as squats and lunges, are difficult for people with knee problems. Balance is sometimes an issue as well.

    With all of these obstacles in the way, it's easy to want to just give up. However, that's the worst thing you can do. Instead, you might need to find other ways to exercise.

    Private Personal Training

    Personal training is an excellent option for anyone, but especially for someone who's obese and looking to lose weight and get healthy.

    However, because of the gym intimidation factor, there are plenty of obese people who miss out on the opportunity to work one-on-one with an expert.

    One option, if you want to avoid the masses, is to work privately with a personal trainer. You can opt for hiring a trainer to come to your home or work with a trainer at a personal training studio. Some of the advantages of working out at a studio include:

    • Privacy. Most studios are small and often exist only to provide personal training, though some may also offer group fitness classes as well. At some, you can even request that they schedule you at a time when no other trainers or clients are there.
    • Experienced and educated trainers. Trainers at health clubs are often fresh out of school. However, studios often employ experienced and more educated trainers, people who may have specialty certifications that can help with your situation. 

      One note -- not all personal training studios are alike, so do your research. Visit different places before you make a decision, and check the trainer's credentials and experience.

      Online Personal Training

      If you'd like to work with a personal trainer but don't have the funds or time, consider online personal training.

      Some sites provide you with your own personal trainer to help set up a workout. If you're a beginner, keep in mind that you won't have someone there monitoring you and watching your form.

      If that may be a problem for you, start with a live personal trainer and move on to online training when you're more comfortable with exercise.

      Beyond personal training, there are ways to exercise at home.

      Recumbent Bikes and Cross-Trainers

      Recumbent bikes are great for people who need support while they exercise.

      One product on the market is the Recumbent Cross Trainer, which offers an alternative to endless pedaling. This machine is more like a stepper than a bike and it allows you to work your upper body and lower body at the same time without stressing your joints.

      It accommodates a variety of body types and sizes, but it's also pricey, so that's something to consider if you're on a budget.

      You can also look into regular recumbent bikes by checking out some reviews of the most popular brands. There are companies that make larger bikes for overweight people.

      Exercise Ball

      Many people think they may be too big for an exercise ball, but if you're overweight, you can still safely use an exercise ball for exercise.

      Just double check the specifications of the ball you buy to check the weight limits and make sure it's an anti-burst ball. An exercise ball can help you work on balance, stability, and core strength.

      Some of the basic exercises you can try include sitting on the ball, marching, or balancing by lifting one foot off the floor, holding, and then lifting the other foot. Try this Beginner Ball Workout for more ideas.

      Portable Pedlar

      A small portable pedlar is a great option if you're just getting started.

      Try pedaling for as long as you can, rest and repeat 5 or more times. Another option is to keep track of revolutions each week to track improvement. You can pedal with your hands if you're not able to use your feet, which is another way to get your heart rate up and work on your cardio endurance.


      If walking is your exercise of choice, a pedometer can be very motivating. If you spend a lot of time sitting, a pedometer can help you set goals to get you moving a little more.

      For example, set an alarm to go off every hour and see how many steps you can get in. Start with 50 steps and set a goal to get in at least 50 steps every hour. See how much more you can improve on that every week.

      Exercise Videos and Information

      Another great option is to try exercise videos. You get the guidance of an expert all in the comfort of your own home. Just some options:

      For more videos, visit Collage Video for an excellent selection of home exercise videos. You can also check out this Seated Full-Body Workout, a complete total body workout using resistance bands, dumbbells and a medicine ball that can be done from a seated position.

      If you're obese or overweight, you sometimes have to be creative when it comes to exercise. There are many people talking about exercise and urging you to do it, but they aren't telling you exactly what to do if you can't do traditional exercises.

      The key is to find something that is comfortable for you, something you enjoy and something you'll continue to do over time. Remember to get checked out by your doctor before you begin exercising, especially if you have any health conditions or are on any type of medication.

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