Obesity and Working out: All You Need to Know
Purabi Gunjal (she/her)

Purabi Gunjal (she/her)

May 11Fitness

Obesity and Working out: All You Need to Know

This article has been compiled by Vaibhavi Kodnani, a content writer at Proactive For Her.

A person is considered obese when their Body Mass Index (BMI) is higher than 25, and they have a high waist-hip ratio. Generally, BMI can be self-assessed at home with a measuring tape and online BMI calculators. However, it is best to visit a professional and get a total assessment of your body composition.

Obesity has many complications

Obesity, coupled with other factors such as lifestyle and genetics is a serious condition and has many physical and psychological problems associated with it.

It can gravely affect your daily functioning. Obesity coupled with a poor lifestyle and family history can increase your risk for the following conditions-

  • All hormonal disorders - PCOS, diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Sleep apnea
  • Heart disease
  • Arthritis
  • Joint pains
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Eating disorders
  • Body image disorder

How can working out help?

In general, exercising has a multitude of benefits. Losing weight is not the sole objective of exercising; it is always secondary. If you are dealing with obesity and start working out, you are bound to notice significant differences in your body. It will help you in:

  • Achieving a healthier body composition
  • Getting a better sleep
  • Reversing your hormonal imbalances; hence also reducing your medicine dosage
  • Improving your immunity
  • Losing weight

What should be your fitness goals?

Every person will have different fitness goals depending on the causes and stage of their obesity. Someone may genuinely wish to live a healthier life, while someone’s clinical condition may demand weight loss.

But if you are just starting to work out, always remember that your fitness goals should be health-oriented. Never restrict your goals to just losing weight. Some people may also notice weight gain after they start exercising. It is because your muscle mass and bone density would increase. Hence, losing weight is not the only outcome of exercising.

What should you know before starting working out?

Exercising has to be done with full knowledge and awareness. Do not jump straight into it without following the below-mentioned steps.

  1. Visit your physician

    Before you start exercising, visit your physician, who will evaluate whether you are eligible to begin any physical activity or not. Once you receive a positive answer from your doctor, the next step would be to visit a fitness trainer.
  2. Motivate yourself

    If you have never exercised, it can be hard to start. Hence, think about the benefits of exercising and motivate yourself for it.
  3. Go to a trainer

    Once you have made up your mind, there is no turning back. Continue with your plan and approach a fitness trainer or yoga instructor or physiotherapist. Usually, they will first give you a questionnaire to fill to understand your condition and fitness levels. After that, they will chart out an appropriate exercise program for you that will be both - beneficial and comfortable. It is advisable to take the help of a trainer because if you are a beginner, as you may not be aware of which exercises would benefit you or are suitable for you.
  4. Have the right approach

    Working out does not show results in a few days; do not believe anyone who tells you that. It takes months of consistent practice to be able to see significant changes in your body.

On a general basis, if you exercise regularly for:

  • 1 month: you will start noticing slight differences.
  • 3-4 months: you will notice significant differences.
  • A lifetime: you will stay healthy and fit.

Always aim for gradual progress and consistency. Do not aim for perfection when you start. If you feel uncomfortable while performing certain exercises, do not force yourself as you may end up getting injured.

  1. Apparel, footwear and equipment

    Apparel: Wear comfortable clothing while working out. Keep in mind that your clothes should not restrict your body movements, and the fabric should not irritate your skin. For women, wearing sports bras is recommended.

    Footwear: Sports shoes are advisable if you are gyming or going outdoors for a run or walk. If you are doing low-intensity exercises at home, you can do them barefoot.

  • Buy a yoga mat as it gives you a firm, non-slippery surface to workout.
  • If you wish to track your health, you can invest in a smartwatch too.
  • If you wish to introduce weights in your workout routine, you can use products at home to make your weight training equipment. For example, water bottles, bags filled with books, sacks of grains.
  • Later on, you can buy resistance bands, medicine balls, dumbbells, an agility ladder, etc.

What exercises should you start with?

Strength training and cardiovascular exercises are two aspects of a fitness routine. Along with that, mobility exercises are also important.

Mobility exercises

Mobility exercises should be done in every session. These will help to increase the range of motion of your joints. These exercises can be a part of your warm-up before starting your main session.

Mobility exercises include:

  • Shoulder gators
  • Cat and camel pose
  • Lying dynamic T-stretch
  • Dynamic hip flexor stretch
  • Hip cradles
  • Quad rockers
  • Ankle Rotations clockwise and anticlockwise

Strength training exercises

As the name suggests, strength training exercises aim at improving your strength and endurance. These exercises will help you to:

  • Make your bones stronger
  • Gain muscle mass
  • Give your body a toned look
  • Prevent weight gain due to increased metabolic rate

It is not necessary to use weights or other equipment to perform strength training exercises. You can do bodyweight training wherein you will use your body weight to increase your strength levels.

Bodyweight training includes:

  • Squats
  • Chair squats
  • Push-ups
  • Lunges
  • Calf raises
  • Crunches
  • Reverse crunches
  • Hip bridges
  • Planks
  • Surya namaskar

Each of the exercises mentioned in the list has many variations. For beginners, there will be lower intensity alternatives for it. For example, if you cannot perform squats, you can start with assisted squats that involve taking the support of a chair or a wall. Eventually, as you progress, you will be able to do it without assistance.

Therefore, having a professional devise your workout program is crucial. It will prevent you from unwanted injuries and help you progress gradually.

Cardiovascular exercises

In overweight and obese people, the heart rate is high, and the lung capacity is not enough. They are not able to inhale as much oxygen as they require. Hence, doing cardiovascular exercises are essential for improving:

  • Your lung capacity
  • Your heart rate
  • Pumping of blood
  • Oxygen saturation in your blood

Cardiovascular exercises include:

  • Long duration walks
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Jogging
  • Running

These cardiovascular activities use fat in our body as fuel. Hence, doing these will help in burning fat as well. That does not suggest that you must only do cardiovascular exercises, as it may lead to loss of bone weight and muscle mass. Therefore, strength training is equally important.

Remember these workout tips!

Warm-up and cooldown

Always do warm-up and cooldown exercises before and after your workout sessions, respectively. You can avoid injuries this way.

Focus on your breath

While exercising, breathing is crucial. Do not do any other activity such as talking on the phone, etc., at that time. If you follow these breathing tips, you won’t feel out of breath very fast.

  • When you are going against gravity, you must exhale.
  • When you are going towards gravity, you must inhale.

Make gradual progress

 If you do the same set of exercises for too long, it will stop showing results. Follow either of these tips to progress gradually in your exercise routine. Do not execute all of these at once.

  • Increase the load
  • Increase the duration of your exercise
  • Reduce the number of breaks you take in between the exercises

Take sips of water in between

You can take a few sips of water in between your exercises. But remember not to drink a lot of water. Drinking too much water during a workout is not advisable.

How much exercise should you do as a beginner?

If you are new to exercising, you can start with 30-40 mins of exercise, 4 times a week. It is better to incorporate both strength training exercises and cardiovascular exercises on alternate days. Focusing on only one kind of exercise will not be as effective.

What exercises should you avoid?

It will depend on your fitness levels and your clinical condition. But if you are a beginner, avoid the following kind of exercises:

  • High-intensity exercises; High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
  • Plyometric exercises
  • It does not mean you can never do these exercises. As your health gradually progresses after regularly following your exercise schedule, you will be in a better position to try these out too.

How to motivate yourself and make exercise a habit?

  1. Understand ‘why’ exercise

    Firstly, you need to take efforts to learn the benefits of exercising. Acknowledging that exercising is going to improve your health and other clinical conditions can motivate you to start.
  2. Be self-motivated

    Initially, you need to put in some effort and push yourself to exercise. After a few days, it will become a habit. Many people may coerce you to exercise. But if you are not willing to do it, you will keep turning a dead ear to them. Therefore, rather than relying on someone else, be your motivation.
  3. Set small goals

    Setting small and achievable goals will help you stay motivated for longer. It is a better choice than setting big goals and getting intimidated by them. Everyone’s goals will be different and will keep changing with time.

    If you have just started exercising or do not like exercising, your goal can be staying consistent. “I want to workout 4 times a week for the next 3 weeks.” Once you achieve that, you can set another goal. For example, “I want to finish 3 sets of exercise in 20 minutes.” or “I want to run 2 km in 15 mins.” or “I want to finish 8000 steps by the end of the day.”
  4. Try out group sessions

    You can even make exercising more fun by joining group workout sessions. Being in an environment with like-minded people can boost your confidence and motivation levels. If not that, find a friend with similar health goals to workout with you. Nowadays, there are also virtual communities that exercise together.
  5. Enjoy your exercise sessions

    Most importantly, whatever you do, you must enjoy it. Make it fun for yourself if you feel it is not. You can join workout communities, download fitness apps or include sports. Tracking your progress and seeing positive results can also give you joy and motivation to continue exercising.

If not conventional exercises, what can you do?

There is no replacement for exercising. It has many health benefits which cannot be attained with anything else. But, for the days you miss your workouts, you can practice NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) throughout the day. NEAT includes activities that do not exercise, but they still help burn calories. Some examples include:

  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Walking or cycling to the market to buy groceries
  • In a supermarket, opting for the basket instead of the trolley
  • Playing with your pets, kids
  • Cleaning your house: mopping, sweeping
  • Washing utensils
  • Cooking

Bottom line

Exercising may seem boring at first, but once you start and see the results, you will never look back. It will help you achieve good body composition, improve your obesity symptoms. Start exercising, become healthy and fit!

Disclaimer: This information is provided for educational purposes and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare practitioners before undertaking any changes in your diet or adding supplements.

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