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Safe Exercises For The Obese

Updated on May 15, 2012

Getting In Shape If You're Morbidly Obese

Though I was a skinny teenager, I've battled weight issues for most of my adult life. I hit rock bottom a few years ago when I gained so much weight that I could barely walk. Don't get me wrong, I wanted to move, but the pressure on my back and joints was incredibly painful.

This is a problem that many obese and overweight people, such as myself, face. The best way to lose weight is to eat less (and healthfully) and exercise. But what do you do if you're in such bad shape that even doing simple moves like walking seem impossible? It can seem as if you're trapped and there's no way to even begin living a healthier lifestyle.

Fortunately, it is possible to get results by taking extremely small steps. Here are a few very simple and safe exercises that the obese can do to get going with a fitness program and start losing weight. I am not a doctor or a professional trainer so I highly recommend seeing a trainer to make sure you're doing the moves properly. Also, PLEASE BE SURE TO SEE YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE BEGINNING ANY SORT OF FITNESS PROGRAM.

Resistance Band Training

This is the exercise that I started out with. I like resistance band training because you don't have to worry about handling clunky weights. In my case, I'd sometimes find it awkward handling free weights and was embarrassed to go to the gym to use the weight machines there. But with resistance band training, you can strengthen your muscles and not have to deal with weights. Instead, you use a stetchy band that provides, well, resistance when it's manipulated in certain movements. What's great is that there are plenty of moves that can be done while sitting, so if you have knee or back problems, you don't need to stand. And it's tougher than it looks! You'd be surprised by the workout you can get from one of these.

I've since moved on to using a BowFlex machine, which is similar to a classic universal machine, only it uses resistance rods. Again, I like it because I have back problems and can do many of the 60-plus exercises it offers in a sitting position, and it's easy on my knees. These can be costly, however, and take several hours to set up, so a simple resistance band is a great -- not to mention, much less expensive -- alternative. 

Resistance Band Training

Chair Dancing

Another one of my favorite types of exercises is "chair dancing." Basically, you perform an aerobic routine where you move your entire body ... only you're sitting in a chair for the entire time. This is perfect for overweight people who suffer from back and joint problems. Because you're sitting, the exercises are low-impact, but you're still getting an intense workout. Once you've mastered chair dancing and feel as if you can work out standing, you can move on to a simple aerobic or walking routine. However, this is a wonderful way to get started while preventing your back from becoming injured.

I'll admit, I was surprised to see how elaborate -- and fun -- some of these routines are! You're waving your hands, stomping your feet and still using all of those muscles that you'd use in a standing aerobic video. Be prepared to work up a sweat!

Chair Dancing Exercise

Sit And Be Fit

Water Aerobics

Truthfully, I'm not a big fan of water aerobics because I like to feel sweat when I work out and I'm not thrilled about appearing in a bathing suit in public. That said, I do know some overweight people who swear by exercising in the water. The beauty with water is that you're weightless in it and so when you're submerged, you can do things that you might not be able to do on dry land -- like, say, walking comfortably.

This is why this is such an ideal exercise for the obese. It allows you to build muscle and get in shape while being more mobile than usual. Plus, water is great for resistance; think about how heavy it feels when you push against it!

Even if you have your own pool, you should consider attending a class since it's safer to swim with someone else there. Plus, an instructor will show you how to do the moves properly. You'll be surprised by how intense these workouts can be.

Water Aerobics


This is my workout of choice because it's cheap, easy and well, gets me places. Living in New York City, walking is a necessity.

Even if you're not up to walking long distances, however, you can start slowly and work your way up. Start out by walking a few steps in place in your home, then keep adding a few more until you can venture outside. Next, walk down to the end of the driveway, then to the end of the block, then around the block, etc. Wearing a pedometer can be helpful because then you can track your progress. Again, though: if walking is difficult for you and you wish to begin a program, see a medical professional. Plus, you should have someone on hand to spot you when you're starting out.

A Healthier Lifestyle

If you're morbidly obese and don't feel as if you have the strength to exercise, don't dispair. Getting into shape isn't a race; you need to take things slowly and find a proper workout that's at your level. So don't put it off; speak with your doctor and find out which types of fitness are best for you.


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    • jennyatbootyw8 profile image


      7 years ago from Luton, UK

      Such an inspiring article... you have embraced the will to live a full life and make the necessary changes to do it! At the end of the day it's about what we CAN do rather than what we CAN'T do ...

      There is hope ... people need to believe and take the first step !

    • Dale Michaels profile image

      Dale Michaels 

      8 years ago from Guangzhou, China

      Great Hub NaomiR and good for you to have the courage and determination to do something about your situation. These are really excellent suggestions for anyone that is facing this type of problem.

      The key is to do something, or as you mention in the last paragraph, "don't put it off."

    • fiona_33 profile image


      8 years ago from UK

      Terrifc hub. It's really important to choose exercises that suit your age, weight and ability.

    • olaoyemi profile image


      9 years ago

      Thanks.Am obese and I have been looking information such as this.

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 

      9 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      Great Hub! And you even included one of my favorite water aerobics instructors - Dr. Kay Heaton! Another tip - I like to advise all of my clients and friends and even my "active set" to do wall push-ups. They are easy, require no equipment and very helpful. I have bookmarked this Hub for future reference. Very well done.


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