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How to start exercising when you’re overweight

Overweight women exercising

Exercising regularly can be an effective way to lose weight and keep your weight under control. But starting a new workout routine when you’re overweight can be hard, especially if you haven’t been active for a while. Focusing on the benefits of exercise can help motivate you to get started and keep going. Of course, always talk with your doctor before you start any exercise program.

Benefits of regular exercise

When you’re out of shape, it’s hard to feel good about yourself. Worse, being overweight puts you at greater risk of developing health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. According to the American Heart Association, even a little weight loss can produce many health gains. In fact, if you’re overweight, losing just five to 10 pounds may help lower your blood pressure and reduce the strain on your heart.

Exercise can also improve your cholesterol. Physical activity raises your HDL cholesterol (or “good” cholesterol), while lowering your LDL cholesterol (or “bad” cholesterol). Plus, you’re more likely to get a good night’s sleep, which can improve your concentration and productivity.

Best of all, regular exercise makes you feel better. And that boosts your self-confidence.

Make exercise a regular part of your daily routine

Starting an exercise program doesn’t mean you have to join a gym or begin training for a half-marathon. First, check with your doctor to make sure you’re healthy enough to begin an exercise program. The easiest way to start exercising is to find ways to fit physical activity into your day:

  • Skip the elevator and take the stairs.
  • Park far away from the entrance at the grocery store.
  • Sit on an exercise ball at work to strengthen your core and back muscles.
  • Go for a walk at lunch or after work.
  • Use hand weights or resistance bands while you watch TV.
  • Turn on some music and dance.
Increase your activity to lose weight

If your doctor recommends that you lose weight, it’s time to get moving. It won’t be long before you find that the benefits of regular exercise are well worth the effort. To get started exercising, follow a few simple tips:

  • Start slowly.

    If you haven’t been active for a while, ease into your new exercise program and give your body time to adjust to the activity.

  • Do something you enjoy.

    Take in the scenery as you walk or bike through a neighborhood park. Listen to podcasts while you use an elliptical machine.

  • Exercise with a buddy.

    Connecting with others can keep you motivated to exercise more.

  • Stay hydrated.

    Drink plenty of water before, during, and after you exercise.

  • Change your workout routine from time to time.

    A variety of physical activities helps you stay motivated and prevents boredom.

  • Wear a fitness tracker.

    Health apps and fitness trackers can help you set goals. Keeping track of your progress can be motivating.

How much exercise do you need?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that most healthy adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week, along with strength training at least two days a week and flexibility and stretching exercises. If you’re overweight, focus on activities that put minimal stress on your joints, like walking, swimming, or water exercises.

If the idea of 150 minutes of exercise every week sounds daunting, break your workout routine into smaller chunks. Your goal should be to get 30 minutes of exercise a day, five days a week. But you don’t have to get all 30 minutes of exercise at the same time. You can work out for 10 minutes at a time and still realize the benefits.

When you’re working out, stop if you ever experience chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, pain in the neck or jaw, or muscle or joint pain.

Celebrate your success

Making fitness a regular part of your life is easier when you have an incentive to keep moving. Find ways to celebrate your weight-loss milestones. Buy new workout gear after you achieve a goal. Or, indulge in a massage after you lose five pounds. Just make sure your rewards don’t contradict your goals.