Trying to be active when you’re obese can be challenging: It may be difficult to find exercise equipment that supports you. Bending or moving a certain way may feel impossible. You may be self-conscious exercising around other people.
But activity is essential to a healthy lifestyle. It can help ward off type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure. If you already have these health problems, working out can ease your symptoms. Regular activity also reduces stress, helps build bone, boosts your heart and lung function and helps you sleep better at night.
And the best news? You can be physically active no matter what your size.
Before you start any physical activity, talk with your healthcare provider. Experts recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate activity on most, if not all, days to help you maintain a healthy weight. But you’ll need at least 60 minutes a day to drop excess pounds.
Sound impossible? It’s not. You can break up your daily exercise into more manageable bites—for example, three or more 10-minute sessions. And health experts agree: A little activity is still better than none.
You should consider the following three types of activity:
1. Nonweight-bearing workouts put less stress on your joints because you’re not lifting or pushing against your weight.
Great activity: Water workouts
Why it works for you: You can bend and move in ways that may not be possible on land. And the water keeps you cool while you’re hard at work!
- Check your local recreation center or pool to see whether it offers classes with certified instructors. A group water aerobics class is a great way to get motivated.
- Try shallow-water workouts, keeping water levels between your waist and chest, which will allow you to move your arms more easily. To give your whole body a good workout, opt for deep-water exercises, which keep most of your body underwater. To be safe, wear a life jacket or a foam belt.
- Incorporate beach balls, kickboards or foam dumbbells to make your water workout more fun.
Great activity: Bicycling
Why it works for you: Biking doesn’t put stress on any one part of the body; instead, it evenly distributes weight over your arms, back and hips. It’s also pretty flexible: You can pedal away on an indoor stationary bike or outdoors on a road bike.
- Try a recumbent bike. It seats you lower to the ground, and your legs have to reach for the pedals. You’re not seated upright and the seat is wider, so you may be more comfortable. You can also try a mountain bike, which has wider tires.
- Make sure the bike’s weight rating is suited to your weight.
- Don’t forget the helmet if you’re riding outdoors!
2. Weight-bearing activities force you to lift or push against your body weight. You don’t need special equipment to benefit.
Great activity: Walking
Why it works for you: It gets you moving, helps you build healthy bones, is easy to do and costs no more than a good pair of shoes. Plus you can avoid feeling self-conscious by strolling through a park instead of walking at a gym.
- Start slowly. Walk for up to five minutes a day for the first week. When you feel comfortable enough, slowly add time to your walks each week. You can also start to walk faster.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes that give you a lot of support. If you’re a frequent walker, talk with a podiatrist about how often you should replace your shoes.
- Walk in places you like—for example, a park. Take a friend or a pet with you, or try listening to music or audio books to make your walk even more enjoyable.
3. Lifestyle activities such as vacuuming count toward your daily physical activity and can help improve your health. You can also modify some of your activities to make them harder.
Why it works for you: Physical activity doesn’t have to be planned.
- Ditch the TV remote and get up to change the channel.
- March in place during TV commercials.
- Skip the elevator and take the stairs.
- Walk to your co-worker’s office rather than calling or e-mailing.
If you’re still not sure how to get started, talk with your healthcare provider. And remember: No matter what activity you choose, any amount of movement is a step to a healthier you.