Exercise Considerations for the Overweight and Obese

Obesity, today, is the largest health risk that affects nearly one-third of the world’s population. At the risk of generalizing, it can be said that the primary reason for obesity is sedentary lifestyle. Overweight individuals have low tolerance for exercise and usually have negative feelings associated with it. Therefore, the most important thing to keep in mind when designing an exercise routine for this section of the population is to ensure their continued adherence to it. This is because, regardless of the exercise they take up, consistency is the single most important factor in achieving sustained weight loss.



There are several instances where personal trainers in gyms make their overweight clients go through such an intensive program on the first day itself, that they lose the feel good factor associated with an exercise routine. In a study that relates the intensity of exercise with positive and negative feelings that are generated in the participants, it was found that those who remained under their ventilatory threshold (VT) reported positive feelings after the session, while an overwhelming number reported negative feelings after going through a grueling workout that crossed their VT limit. Guess which group would be willing and happy to return to the gym the next day?

While there will always be a set of people who look forward to an intense session that leaves them sore and cramping the next day, they are very few in number. Most personal trainers superimpose their idea of a good workout session on their clients, and thus fail to inspire them to develop regular exercise as a habit.



For obese and overweight individuals trying to lose weight by exercising, an important consideration is minimizing the stress on the joints. For joints that are already under mechanical stress of excess weight, running or jumping can cause further problems. In the beginning, therefore, they should consider low impact exercises like walking, cycling, swimming, and so on.

For overweight individuals, following the wrong type of exercise can actually lead to injury. Even weight-bearing exercises should be started off slowly. A routine incorporating dumbbells, benches, and body weight exercises is most suitable to improve balance and strength. Correct posture and increasing joint flexibility while focusing on increased range of motion, provides a good foundation to a beginner in weight training.




Undeniably, the most important tool to fight obesity is dietary intervention. Several studies on overweight and obese subjects report that regular exercise, whether aerobic exercise or strength training, will definitely improve health markers, but, with no calorie restriction, there will be minimal weight (body fat) change, if any. Studies also report little to no change in weight loss over 2-3 months when there is no diet control. So, even before you take that expensive gym membership, I highly recommend that you get your diet under control first!



~ Jyoti Dabas