Exercise Programmes for the Obese

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Being obese means you have excessive body fat and potentially other life threatening diseases such as Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). Its primary cause is the consumption of too many calories (especially high fat and or high sugar), or from leading a sedentary lifestyle (or both). In this article I provide you advice on exercise programmes for the obese.

Obesity has become a global problem primary fueled by an increase in inexpensive energy-dense foods that are easily accessible and by a reduction in the average daily energy expenditure.

Being obese increases the overall risk and severity of numerous cardiovascular diseases including hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes. It also causes joint and muscloskeletal issues caused by excessive body weight.

Individuals who are overweight and do not exercise on average have a lifespan 10 years lower than their counterparts, thus embarking on an exercise regime and weight loss programme is highly recommended. Individuals should eat a variety of healthy foods and initially control their calorie intake with the use of weight loss shakes and dietary supplements.

Exercise Programmes for the Obese

The primary aim of exercise is to expend calories, in a safe manner that avoids injury. It needs to be fun and practical in relation to the individual lifestyle. The aim is to achieve 200-300 minutes of physical activity per week resulting in approx 2000 calories being expended (this is on top of your normal calorie expenditure). Aerobic exercise is preferred because it can be sustained for a longer period of time (compared to anaerobic exercise and strength training) allowing for a greater number of calories being burnt. That’s not to say anaerobic exercise or strength training cannot be carried out, but the number one goal when beginning an exercise programme is to increase the caloric expenditure through exercise.

Aerobic exercise should be undertaken for 30-60 mins per day or 2 sessions per day of 20-30 mins, for at least 5 days per week. Intensity should be monitored using the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale at a rate of moderate to strong. Individuals should rate their perceived exertion every 60 secs.

Rating of Perceived Exertion Chart

Rating of Perceived Exertion Chart

Activities should include walking, rowing, cycling, swimming or water aerobics. Non-weight bearing or low impact exercise is highly recommended to avoid injury.

Warm-up and cool down exercises should be undertaken for 3-5 mins, including stretching exercises to increase Range of Motion (ROM).

Because the primary goal is to expend calories in a safe manner, it is advisable to increase the duration of the exercise rather than the intensity. As your goals and objectives become closer and weight loss is achieved, strength training and higher intensity exercises (such as interval training) can be considered.

The following exercise precautions should be considered:

  • low impact – non weight bearing exercise is best to avoid injury
  • clothing should be loose fitting to aid thermoregulation
  • best to exercise in the cooler parts of the day
  • adequate hydration – urine should be clear rather than dark

Other requirements to ensure weight/fat loss should be to incorporate a low fat diet.

The biggest obstacle for most trying to lose weight is staying motivated and adopting to the new lifestyle. Obese individuals often find it particularly difficult because it not only requires 1 significant lifestyle change, but 2 – regular exercise and a low fat diet. Because of this, individuals should incorporate motivational strategies and ensure that any goals are set using the SMART principle.

Related Articles:

Exercise to help reduce hypertension (high blood pressure)

About the Author

David Vidgen has nearly 18 years experience in the Fitness Industry. Having completed internationally representing Great Britain and England in the Decathlon (track and field). I am an expert in fitness training, weight loss and physical conditioning.

I am a qualified ACSM Health and Fitness Instructor (HFI).

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