Losing weight and exercise
The World Health Organization (WHO) says exercise can:
• help maintain and control weight
• keep bones, muscles and joints strong
• increase lifespan
• reduces stress
• improve balance and coordination
- reduces the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and some cancers.
That’s a great set of motivators to get started - but if you’re very overweight, it’s just not that easy. Our suggestions are based on the successful weight loss and exercise development of obese and severely obese people, a social group that is always told it ‘needs to exercise’ but struggles to find real help with where and how to begin.
Physical activity - the low down for obese people
So what is physical activity? It’s one of three things - lifestyle activity, aerobic exercise or strength building work. Some more good news - each of these forms of exercise is possible for you right now!
First steps in lifestyle activity
Small changes to your daily life can alter your attitude to your body and to exercise. They do need to be small because you’re going to commit to doing them every day, maybe many times a day. For obese people, very simple lifestyle movements bring big rewards. Consider:
- putting the TV remote half-way across the room so you have to walk to it to change channels
- mopping a floor or making a bed every morning.
Each of these burns many calories for an obese person because just to do them you have to move and balance a large weight (your own). Once you’ve built the habit of more movement, you can add in some bigger lifestyle activities such as going for a short walk before dinner, cooking from scratch a couple of times a week, washing the car etc.
First steps in aerobic exercise
For overweight people, aerobic exercise often comes with bad previous experiences - wrecked knees, painful joints, dizziness and palpitations … symptoms of high impact aerobics on an overweight body. The good news is that low impact aerobic activity will do you just as much good without the harmful outcomes! Consider:
- Walking - if you’re obese then walk on the flat. Mall walking offers a level surface and a controlled temperature. You can graduate from mall walking to outdoor walks over more varied terrain.
- Exercise in water - gentle walking, floating and generally hanging out in the pool give a great aerobic workout because the water takes the weight of your body so you can move more freely. Leave the water aerobics until you’ve lost some weight but if exercise in water suits you, it won’t be long before you can start taking classes that really boost your health.
First steps in strength building
Amazingly, strength building is the easiest exercise for obese people because they are naturally pretty strong - just carrying all that weight gives us great physical strength that we can build on. Begin with:
- Strapping on some ankle weights and doing ankle exercises while you watch TV or work at your desk
- Keep a couple of dumbbells (or just soup cans) by your bed and practise arm curls and presses before you sleep.
Record your progress
Instead of looking at inches lost or pounds shed, record the real changes that happen day-to-day. Are you less breathless when you walk upstairs? Can you bend over and tie your sneakers more easily? These are real milestones of progress towards healthy exercise in your life.