How to Start Exercising When You’re Obese: 12 Tips


By: Chris Freytag, CPT // October 24, 2023

Beginning an exercise routine when you are obese can be challenging, but that shouldn’t deter you from getting started! It’s important to approach your goals with patience, consistency, and a focus on your overall well-being.

Here are 12 steps to help you start exercising when you’re obese.

1. Talk to Your Doctor First

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Before beginning any exercise program, consult your doctor or a healthcare professional, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or concerns. They can provide guidance tailored to your specific needs and limitations.

2. Start Slowly

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This is the MOST important! Don’t overdo it on day one.  You will likely become discouraged, sore, and possibly even injured. 

Begin with low-impact exercises that are gentle on your joints, such as walking, swimming, or cycling. Start with short durations, even as little as 10 minutes a day, and gradually increase the time as your endurance improves.

3. Set Realistic Goals

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Set achievable, realistic, and specific goals. Set goals about consistent movement, not just weight loss!

Instead of aiming for significant weight loss at the start, focus on creating healthy exercise habits. Goals like walking for 10-15 minutes a day or reducing sedentary time can be a good start. Keep track of your daily activity and progress.

4. Find Activities You Enjoy

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Look for activities you enjoy doing. Whether dancing, walking, biking, or playing a sport, finding something you like increases the likelihood of sticking with it in the long run! 

If you hate the exercise you choose, you won’t stick with it. There is no one right form of exercise; you need to think about what YOU like.

5. Consider Support

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Exercise with a friend or family member, or consider joining a support group. Having someone to exercise with can provide motivation and make the experience more enjoyable.

You can also find an accountability partner — someone who will check in with you daily to give you encouragement and support.

6. Modify Your Diet

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While exercise is important, weight loss is also significantly influenced by diet. (You can’t out-train a bad diet!)

No matter how you slice it, it’s calories in vs. calories out.  Of course, the type of calories matters, so start eliminating processed foods and try to eat real foods like fruits and veggies. 

Don’t change everything at once, but be mindful and focused. You can also consult a nutritionist or dietitian to create a balanced meal plan that supports your exercise routine and overall health goals.

7. Focus on Strength Training

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Incorporate strength training exercises into your routine. Building muscle mass can boost your metabolism and help with weight loss. Start with bodyweight exercises and gradually introduce light weights.

8. Be Mindful of Your Body

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Listen to your body. If you experience pain (not to be confused with the usual discomfort of exercise), it’s a sign to stop and rest. Pushing yourself too hard, especially in the beginning, can lead to injuries.

9. Track Your Progress

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Keep a record of your workouts. Tracking your progress, whether it’s the number of steps, minutes of activity, or your strength training routine, can be motivating and help you stay on course!

10. Be Patient and Persistent

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Understand that progress may be slow, and setbacks might happen. Stay persistent and be patient with yourself.

Celebrate your achievements, no matter how small they may seem.  You didn’t gain the weight overnight, and you won’t lose it overnight, either. You’re in it for the long haul, and you’ll get there!

11. Stay Hydrated and Well-Rested

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Drink plenty of water, especially when exercising. Also, ensure you get enough sleep, as rest is crucial for your body’s recovery and overall well-being.

12. Consider Professional Guidance

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If possible, work with a certified fitness trainer experienced in working with individuals who are obese. You can also join an online program with beginner exercise programs that are well-instructed.

Remember, the key is to make sustainable changes to your lifestyle. Small, consistent efforts over time can lead to significant improvements in your health and fitness!

The Beginner Strength Training Guide for Women

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Starting a strength training routine can be intimidating and confusing. Walk onto any weight floor in the gym, and it seems everyone there has a plan and knows what they’re doing but you!

Of course, the truth is that everyone had to start as a beginner at one time. That’s why we created this beginner strength training guide for women.

The Beginner Strength Training Guide for Women

Power Walking For Beginners

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With countless studies proving the health benefits of power walking, learning how to do it will keep you moving well into the future.

Power walking is one of the most maintainable workouts a person can add to their life, so if you haven’t tried it yet, how about starting now?

Power Walking For Beginners

HIIT For Beginners

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HIIT workouts (high-intensity interval training) can improve your cardiovascular fitness while helping you build lean muscle and burn fat.

As a personal trainer for decades, I have recommended this type of workout to so many people and currently include it in my own workout routine — because HIIT exercises work to burn fat, fast!

Here’s your guide for getting started.

HIIT For Beginners

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