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Exercise for the obese or overweight

Exercise for the obese or overweight
(if you haven’t already read the pre-exercise advice for overweight people article, please do so before reading this article, there is some important information in there).

This exercise for the obese or overweight article is aimed at those who are looking to start their journey into exercise for the first time or maybe even start again from previous attempts.

To get you started into your journey, you’ll need to do the right type of exercise for your level and see progress.

You will be doing Low-Intensity Steady State cardio (LISS) to start with. Cardio is a form of exercise that raises your heart rate and increases the circulation of blood and oxygen. LISS is an aerobic activity that burns fat mostly at the time of your exercise session. It’s important to note that although you can increase the amount of fat burnt over time with steady state cardio, the human body has a large storage of energy in the form of body fat and that this type of exercise only touches the surface of that fat storage.

However, you have to start somewhere and becoming more active can have a huge impact on your health and well being and if you are looking to get into shape and seriously cannot physically do higher impact type training or high intensity training or lift weights due to joint or fitness issues, then doing non-weight bearing exercises would be the best place to start. When you have excess body weight, it is harder to move, you have less energy, there are many negative hormonal issues, and metabolic issues, which all help to make it even harder to lose weight. It’s a vicious circle. What we are trying to achieve here is just a start, an acclimatising of your body to exercise. With this in mind, if you are unfit, you will need to work at a pace that you are comfortable at to begin with and gradually work your way up.

Good exercises to start can include:

  • swimming, walking in water
  • stationary bike riding
  • rowing machine
  • fitness video games (at a pace that suits you)
  • walking (only if you don’t have joint issues)
  • shadow boxing (slow and gentle)
  • dancing (only if you don’t have joint issues)

When able to push a little harder:

  • full body fitness workouts
  • jogging/running
  • bike riding
  • a sport

The more obese or overweight you are, then the more likely you are going to want to take your time with this, work your intensity up, start slow. But do try to stay as active as possible for as long as it’s comfortable. You ideally want to do these activities for between 35 minutes and an hour per session.

An example of how to start exercising

A good way to start would be to either swim a few lengths of a pool and/or ride a stationary bike, rowing machine or other low impact exercise machine. Then each time you do the activity, see if you can reduce the time a little to cover the same amount of distance. Conversely if you prefer, you can simply see if you can cover more ground/distance and gradually increase the time you can keep active. Do what is most comfortable, but do try to push a little and make progress each session. Do this 3-5 times a week.

The idea behind working out like this, is to gradually increase your fitness and health level. You may lose a bit of weight and body fat at the beginning (for the first 2-3 months), but your body is quick to adapt and this will eventually slow down and maybe even stop. This is due to your metabolic rate being able to adapt to such a low intensity workout and your bodies ability to also adapt by using less energy as it becomes more efficient (your body just gets more efficient at staying fat unfortunately). However hopefully as your fitness level improves, then you will be able to increase the intensity of your workouts which will lead to that fat loss. (this is important – keep reading).

Once you are comfortable with being able to push yourself a little harder and getting fitter and your joints can take it, then you will want to start to do higher intensity activities that will eventually increase your heart rate to above 50% of your maximum heart rate (only do this when you have been cleared to be fit enough to do so). This is the type of training that will lead to fat loss and get your metabolism up. This is the important part – getting your ‘metabolism up’ – when this happens your body will become more efficient at using body fat as an energy source and that is what you want. Increasing muscle mass will also help burn more calories and I strongly recommend you try to add some type of resistance training to your schedule.

Important: Please ensure you also monitor your blood pressure on a regular basis and are clear to increase your workout intensity.

Staying hydrated during exercise

When doing cardio/aerobic exercise, you will sweat and sweat lots, obese/overweight individuals tend to sweat more, so make sure you stay hydrated and drink plenty of water and/or use a drink that also replaces electrolytes (minerals lost during sweating), but stay away from drinks with high sugar content.

Pre workout food

It is ok to eat a normal meal 2-3 hours before your workout, however, do not eat any carbs just before your workout, as this will suppress the fat burning side of energy expenditure. But to spare muscle breakdown, taking a protein drink or other protein source 30- 45 minutes before your workout may have some benefit in sparing muscle breakdown.

Post workout food

In order to help lose body fat, it is best to eat a solid meal 30-60 minutes after your workout. Have a meal with complex carbs and lean protein (see the nutrition plan). If you do want something straight after your workout, then at the most have a protein drink or a chicken salad for example and avoid fatty foods or high carbohydrate foods. And don’t forget to replenish the electrolytes lost as mentioned above.


Remember the food you eat can have the biggest effect on your health and if you are eating junk foods and excess calories, you will feel like junk and those excess calories will affect your internal and external body fat levels, so get this part sorted first.

While I have written this article to help you get into an exercise routine, at some point you will want to up the intensity and move onto more challenging and effective ways to continue your journey. With this in mind, I will suggest once you are at a level to do so, to move onto the next level of HIIT, fitness conditioning (section 2) or add weight training to your activity list. You can check these out on this site once you are ready.

Talking about being ready. This isn’t a race. Work your fitness level and fat loss momentum up slowly, don’t get disappointed and be sure to set yourself realistic goals.

If you would like to add weights to your routine, it doesn’t have to mean bodybuilding or strength training. It just means creating resistance for your muscles to keep them active or even growing. It is a great tool for burning fat that can help the body become lean and healthy. If you have excess body fat, you already have reduced amounts of testosterone in the body, therefore burning excess calories and body fat is the priority to increasing testosterone. This is why if you are overweight and capable of doing¬†cardio and weight training together, then I’d definitely do both, you will burn many more calories, increase your testosterone level and increase muscle mass that burns more calories throughout the day. Good luck.