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Don’t Let Your Weight Stop You from Exercising -- Safely

If you’re obese, you might feel like there’s a catch-22 when it comes to exercise. You want to be more physically active to lose weight. But the extra pounds can make it feel impossible to work out.

This dynamic creates a vicious cycle that’s hard to escape. Your muscles become weaker as you lose joint mobility, balance and coordination. And a fall can be a fairly traumatic event if you’re obese. In fact, people who are overweight sometimes shy away from exercise because they worry about falling or getting injured, according to a recent study.

But there are safe ways to approach exercise that, along with diet, is critical to shedding pounds and reducing associated health risks.

Start Simple

The key to getting going is to start simple. First, check with your doctor to assess your heart health and determine how much you can exert yourself. From there, build a workout plan that allows you to progress at a rate that’s healthy for your body. Among the options:

  • Focus first on sitting exercises: There are programs you can do while seated, using weights to get your arms going.
  • Stationary bike: Cycling is a good way to burn calories. If you have back pain or joint problems, a recumbent bike is a good option. Just be sure to go at a safe pace and don’t overdo it.
  • Pool walking/jogging: Exercising in a pool is easier on your joints, while the water provides resistance to help burn calories.
  • Walking: It’s an economical way to exercise. If you develop knee, back or hip pain, talk with your doctor. You may need to consider lower-impact options.
  • Pilates/yoga: These activities are great for flexibility and strength. But this may be something to work your way up to over time.

What To Avoid

Make sure you go at a pace that’s safe for you. Pushing yourself too hard can exhaust you and make your body more susceptible to injuries. That means you aren’t jumping right into high intensity exercises or sports.

Weight training is likely OK. But attempting to run up and down a basketball court with your buddies could be dangerous. Instead, start by walking on a treadmill before working your way up to running.

Be patient. It may take time if you do want to get into more competitive sports. Tennis, for example, involves explosive movements and the need for balance. Playing a game like this too soon could result in falls or injury.

A better option is the increasingly popular pickleball – essentially a combination of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. When played as doubles, the game has a strong appeal for people with limited mobility. The same goes for golf, a lower intensity game that involves a lot of walking, particularly if you skip the cart.

Also keep in mind what else your chosen activity involves. Bowling is a nice way to get moving, as long as it doesn’t involve alcohol, smoking or unhealthy food.

How To Stay Motivated

Starting an exercise plan is a relatively easy thing to do. The challenge is keeping it going. One way to keep yourself motivated is to strive for attainable goals. Instead of deciding to lose weight, set a realistic target for how many pounds you want to lose by a certain date. Then keep track of it on a calendar or in a journal.

Joining forces with a friend or group of exercise partners adds a supportive social element. You’ll encourage and hold each other accountable. Working with a personal trainer is another option.

Keep track of the results with your own eyes. Looking in a mirror and seeing your progress can offer a mental and physical boost. And don’t forget to remind yourself why you are doing it. Maybe you have a grandchild whose life you want to be a part of. Write that down and put it somewhere you can see whenever you falter.

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