How to Start a Workout Routine When You’re Overweight

Starting exercise is tough, but it can be even tougher if you are very overweight or obese. Working out when you are heavier can be more uncomfortable and many trainers, fitness experts and magazines forget that carrying an additional 30 to 50-lbs of weight can make even the simplest of exercises very demanding if not dangerous.

Unless the trainer or fitness expert in question has made a point of working out while wearing a 50-lbs weighted vest, they will probably have no comprehension of how difficult even basic exercises can be for overweight people. Unfortunately, very little information is available to help those that are currently significantly overweight exercise safely and comfortably. In this article, we hope to address that information gap.

1. Consider health before fitness

Unfortunately, being overweight carries a number of health risks. As well as diabetes, there is an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, respiratory issues, and joint problems.

Before starting a new exercise routine, see your doctor and tell them of your intention to start exercising. They will probably be very supportive, but may advises you about what exercises you should and shouldn’t do according to any underlying medical issues you may have.

2. Start slowly

If you are overweight and have been inactive, the last thing you should do is dive in headfirst into an overly demanding workout regimen. Although enthusiasm is great, doing too much too soon can leave you tired, sore and possibly injured. Instead, start slow and small and build up gradually.

Take a long-term view of your weight loss and make haste slowly. Once you have got some momentum and developed a decent fitness foundation, you’ll be able to start working out harder and longer.

3. Wear supportive shoes

Being overweight places a lot of stress on your feet. The arches in your feet are designed to offer some shock absorbency but if they are loaded down with lots of weight all the time they can become sore and injured.

In addition, the bones, muscles and ligaments in your feet are also working very hard, so it really pays to look after your feet by wearing supportive athletic shoes.

If you are diabetic or pre-diabetic, make sure you take care of your feet as foot health complications are common and can lead to serious health problems.

4. Avoid excessive impact

Jogging, high-impact aerobics and jumping rope are great exercises and tough for any beginner. Any activity that involves excessive or repetitive impact is tough on your feet, knees, hips, and back.

Carrying more body weight can make high-impact exercise even more challenging, especially if you have joint problems. For example, more weight puts greater pressure on the knees. Great low-impact exercises include cycling, swimming, rowing, walking and weight training.

If you are suffering foot, knee or hip pain, exercise caution and choose activities that do not stress your joints.

5. Check your posture

Being significantly overweight can adversely affect your posture. The weight around your midriff can pull you forward and to correct this you’ll arch your lower back more. This postural abnormality is commonly called a swayback or, more properly, hyperlordosis. It may also cause a rounded upper back, which is called hyperkyphosis.

Both of these postural problems mean your back is more prone to suffering discomfort and injury. To avoid exacerbating this, chose exercises that support your back. Also incorporate exercises to strengthen your core muscles. Your core muscles form a sort of muscular girdle around your waist and support your spine from within.

6. Hydrate!

Having additional weight means even relatively easy exercises like walking can make you overheat. Overheating means sweating, so it’s really important you replace lost fluids to prevent dehydration. Water is calorie free, and is generally the best beverage for beginner exercisers.

7. Get stable

Being overweight places a tremendous strain on your joints – especially your ankles, knees and hips. It is associated with joint instability, increased wear and tear, and may lead to osteoarthritis.

Therefore, incorporate corrective exercises and balance exercises to strengthen and stabilize your joints. If, for example, your knees drop in when you walk, it’s important that you strengthen the muscles on the outside of your hips and thighs to shore up this instability. A qualified fitness professional or physical therapist will be able to advise you on how best to do this.

8. Forget bodyweight exercises

Bodyweight exercises like push-ups and lunges are often prescribed as beginner exercises. However, this is not true if you are significantly overweight. Exercises such as squats can be very demanding for a beginner who is overweight.

Rather than use bodyweight exercises, perform strength training with dumbbells and resistance machines which can be easily adjusted to provide an appropriately demanding workout.

9. Don’t believe the hype

Bootcamp-type fat loss TV shows give a false impression of how quickly you can lose weight. These types of show often use starvation diets, extreme workouts and other similarly harsh methods to help the participants lose weight fast for the TV audience.

In many cases, these practices are unhealthy and potentially dangerous in the long term. Don’t fall for such extreme weight loss methods or try and emulate the shows by attempting to lose lots of weight very quickly.

Don’t worry; you aren’t doing anything wrong simply because you only lose one or two pounds a week and not five or ten! However much you lose per week, you’ll do far better if you chose the slow and steady root over the fast and unsustainable route. Research shows that people who lose weight gradually are much more likely to keep it off afterward than those who crash diet.

10. Cardio Exercise Tips

  • Walk/ power walk outdoors or on a treadmill.
  • When you get to the fastest speed you can (power) walk, without starting to run, raise the level of difficulty by increasing incline on the treadmill, the time you are walking or by choosing a more difficult walking route with hilly intervals.
  • The treadmill is lower impact compared to walking on concrete and asphalt. The treadmill has some shock-absorbent ability and thus is better on your knees, hips and joints.
  • If you have access to gym equipment, the elliptical trainer. It is a no-impact exercise and most people find that they are able to burn more calories than they would running, because it feels easier.
  • There is no particular level at which you should begin. The starting level is completely up to what feels comfortable to you and is approved by your health care professional.
  • The general recommendation is to exercise for 30 minutes at moderate intensity several days a week. However, this may not be practical for beginners especially if overweight. Start slow. That is at a lower intensity and for a shorter duration. 20 minutes of cardio is a good starting point, which you can break up into shorter phases.
  • Use a pedometer, which can be very motivating if you are walking.
  • Be consistent. Consistency allows you to increase the duration and intensity of the exercise as your fitness level begins to increase. This means you are gaining better cardiovascular fitness, strengthening your joints and ligaments and increasing calorie burning.
  • Try exercising with friends or family, the added support will help you to keep up your exercise plan. Alternatively, work privately with a personal trainer.

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  1. I have been trying to workout on my own, nothing major but I am not feeling like I am making progress. I have just spent a good portion on time here and love every article I have read. Everything is super easy to follow and understand. I am looking forward to starting fresh tomorrow with all that I learned! Thank you!!

  2. I have also found this website to be helpful!! My family and I just started walking this week. We wanna all get fit together and I have to say it has been fun walking together. This website has made feel at ease with what we have been doing this week. I tend to stress thinking I’m not doing enough but after reading I know we are heading in the right direction and in time we will feel better and see results!

    • Hi Melissa, thanks for the awesome feedback! It’s wonderful to hear you’re exercising together as a family. So you’re not just getting fit, but you’re spending time with each other and in the great outdoors, which isn’t just great for you physically, but also has many mental health benefits, which in turn has a positive impact on your body physically! Good luck to you and your family! 🙂

  3. I would just like to say that i have spent the afternoon going through this website.
    I have found it very easy and clear to understand. I’m overweight and have been most of my life I really want to change that, I want to live! Everything I’m reading makes sence and is explained very well. At this point im very motivated and just had to share that,


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