Plus-Size Exercise

You're never too overweight to get started

Woman lifting weights at home
Woman lifting weights at home. Zing Images/Getty Images

Do you ever feel like you're too overweight to exercise? If so, you're not alone. There are many kindred souls out there who worry about starting an exercise program.

What should you do and where do you start? Is it really possible to enjoy exercise? What do you do if you have aches and pains that stand in the way of working out?

If you've struggled with these questions, there's some good news for you: It only takes a little exercise to make a difference.

Are You Overweight?

Being obese and being overweight are two different things. What doctors use to determine which one you are involves your Body Mass Index (BMI). To calculate your BMI you divide your body weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared. If you're mathematically limited, try using this BMI calculator:

BMI is used to track body fat according to your height and your weight, but it doesn't distinguish between lean body tissue and fat. BMI can be misleading for very muscular people or for pregnant women.

A BMI between 25 and 29 is considered overweight and a BMI greater than 30 is considered obese. If your BMI is 30 or greater, see your doctor and get a check-up before you start exercising or dieting.

The Problem With Obesity

Obesity contributes to a host of issues such as:

Those are the obvious problems but there are other problems you may have, like joint pain caused by carrying excess weight.

The good news is that if you lose weight, you can manage that pain and perhaps prevent many of these conditions and illnesses. Even better news: It doesn't have to hurt to do it.

Getting Started

Before you do anything, always see your doctor to make sure you can safely exercise without hurting yourself.

If you're taking medication, find out how to monitor yourself since some heart or blood pressure medications can affect your heart rate.

Make sure you get details from the doctor about exactly what you can and can't do. If you've never exercised, the last thing you want to do is hurt yourself by doing too much too soon.

After you get the thumbs up from your doctor, check out the Beginner's Corner to learn how to start an exercise program. There you'll learn what a complete program is like and how to structure it. Before you get started, you'll want to learn more about your exercise options.

Once you've gotten the okay to exercise and you've started educating yourself on exactly what to do, it's time to tackle the most pressing issues. You need to figure out where to workout, what to wear and how to establish an accessible and comfortable exercise routine.

Where to Exercise

The Gym

If you're overweight, you may be hesitant to join a gym.

Walking into a club for the first time can be intimidating, but there are some good reasons to consider it. At a gym, you'll have access to:

  • Personal trainers who can help you get started the right way.
  • A variety of workout machines and aerobics classes, which can make exercise easier.
  • Some gyms have a pool, which is a great option for exercise if your joints need more support.
  • Support from employees who can show you how to navigate the gym.

If the thought of joining a club makes you cringe, consider the YMCA or a community center, which may have a friendlier atmosphere.

You can also try roping a friend into going with you. You'll feel less conspicuous and more motivated. And remember, everyone was a beginner at some point. You can be an inspiration to others who feel the same way you do.

At Home

Another option is to set up an exercise program at home. This may be a comfortable option since there's no one there to see you workout.

Plus, you can exercise whenever you want and you don't need much equipment to get started.

If you're exercising at home, think of starting a walking program either outside or on a treadmill or some other cardio machine for your home. You can even just walk around your house at first, if that's what feels best to your body.

You can also try a workout video for plus-sized exercisers such as Walking Fit and Fabulous or Heavy Weight Yoga. You can also find a variety of size friendly videos at Phat Moves.​

Don't forget that strength training is a must if you want to get fitter, stronger, and start losing weight. This strength training workout offers seated exercises you can do in the comfort of your own home with just a few pieces of equipment.

What to Wear

It can be difficult to find plus sized workout clothes, but the fashion industry is getting a clue about people who aren't size zero and need clothes that are a larger size.

Aside from looking around in your neighborhood malls, surf the web a bit and see what's out there. says, "Fashion is not a size, it's an attitude and Fitness is not a size, it's an attitude." You'll find great information about diet and exercise, plus a list of places to find workout clothes.

Comfort should be your number one goal.

Buy quality items that will make it through daily or weekly washings. Don't forget to buy the proper shoes for your exercise program. If you're going to be walking, you'll want a good pair of walking shoes or even running shoes to provide cushioning and support.

Make sure the shoes feel good when you put them on and that you have a wide enough toe box to keep movement comfortable.

Exercise can be intimidating no matter what size you are, but starting with activities that feel good to you and your body is the best way to establish a consistent exercise routine. Whether it's walking, water aerobics or home exercise videos, find something you can do and do it as much as you can. Remember that a little exercise is always better than nothing.

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