All the moaning and groaning in the world is not going to change the fact that you need to exercise if you want to lose weight. Exercise is a crucial part of any weight loss plan and is actually recommended even if you are at an ideal weight. The advantages of exercise go beyond mere weight loss. Physical activity strengthens your muscles and bones, flushes out toxins, makes your skin and hair glow, reduces fatigue, raises energy levels, balances out hormonal production, and alleviates depression. Obese women need to exercise not just to lose weight but to gain all the other benefits too.
There are two broad categories of exercise for obese women – cardiovascular exercise and strength training. They both have advantages and are both just as crucial in winning the battle against excessive weight gain. Cardio will help you shed the extra pounds and strength training will build the muscle that will keep the pounds off in the long run.
This is the type of exercise which will help you to lose the excess weight by raising your heart rate thus forcing your body to work harder, burning more calories, as it tries to keep up with the higher levels of activity.
The simplest form of cardiovascular exercise is walking. If your fitness level is low, then this is the best type of exercise to start with. It requires no investment except for a pair of good shoes.
This is one of the best cardiovascular exercises around, burning 300 calories in just 20 minutes. However, many obese women find running to be quite difficult for two reasons. One is that they may be embarrassed to run when they are overweight. Two is that running impacts the joints and can cause pain to bones which are already weakened by obesity.
A wonderful alternative to running, cycling is fun and easier on your knees and ankles. You could allot a particular time of the day to head out on your bike or you can replace your regular form of transport with a bicycle. This will inevitably make exercise a part of your life and will keep you consistent.
Boxers skip. If you’ve seen their bodies, then you know that it works in keeping them lean and tones. It may take you awhile to develop the correct skipping stance, but once you do it will be an enjoyable, challenging activity.
Don’t have a skipping rope or find it too awkward to exercise with one? Just jump then. Put on some music to make it interesting.
Here’s another awesome calorie-burner which has zero impact on your joints. If you have regular access to a swimming pool, do a few laps everyday to melt those extra kilos off.
The body is a very efficient machine. Know that the only reason you lose weight from cardio is because your body is burning more calories as it gets used to your physical activity. But once it adapts to that new level, you will notice that your weight loss efforts are not that great anymore. This is known as a plateau and is a normal part of any weight loss plan. The secret to getting around it is to keep your body guessing. Vary your cardio. Do running one day and swimming the next. Go really high-intensity every two to three days while maintaining a moderate to low level of activity on the others. This will ensure that your body is kept on its toes and burns calories more efficiently, but it will also give you a respite from the boredom that creeps in from doing the same type of exercise over and over.
You can lose as much weight as you want with cardio. However, you should always be a step ahead in your weight loss goals. The secret is to make your body a calorie-burning machine. How do you do this? It’s really simple, in theory. Build muscle. Muscle burns more calories than other types of body tissue.
Everything you do, from scratching an itch to taking the stairs will burn calories. Obviously, some activities burn more calories than others. However, your body also has a BMR or a base metabolic rate, which is basically the number of calories your body needs to function regardless of whether you indulge in any physical activity or not. This is also known as your resting metabolic rate, as it reveals the amount of calories you will burn even while lying down and doing nothing. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? But true it is – your body’s daily functions from pumping blood to digesting your food also require energy. This energy comes from the food you eat. If you are alive and breathing, you are burning calories.
Now the secret maintaining your weight loss results is to increase your base metabolic rate. Building muscle is one sure-fire way to do that.
Many women will shy away from building muscle as they fear they will get too bulky. This is an unfounded fear. Men have more testosterone and their muscles are built differently. So they will automatically bulk up, to an extent, if they start working on their bodies.
However, women lack the hormones required to build up muscle to a level where it gets bulky. If women want to get bulky, they need outside help. The female bodybuilders that you see with muscles to rival any man achieve their impressive results by taking supplements and downing concoctions that are designed to make that happen. But if you work on your muscles and just do your regular eating, you will not get bulky. You will, however, be doing yourself a huge favour since you will be increasing your metabolic rate and burning calories even when you sleep.
Your cardio exercises will contribute to the strengthening of your muscles, making them lithe and supple. Strength training will build on that foundation and increase your muscle mass. It also helps to burn fat faster than cardio does. Plus, it tones your body and makes you look good, which is going to make you feel better about yourself and give you a reason to continue with your weight loss efforts.
The kind of strength training you should undertake will depend greatly on your fitness levels. This form of exercise will involve any activity that creates resistance.
This is a popular form of strength training and one of the easiest. You do not need to lift a 20 kg dumbbell to gain the benefits of strength training. Even working with just 1 to 2 kg ones will help. Substitute dumb bells with 1 kg bags of rice or sugar or whatever other grocery staple you have on hand.
Using your Body to Create Resistance
Exercises like push-ups crunches, squats and crunches give you a workout by making you work against your own body weight. Yoga and Pilates are both wonderful and interesting ways to create the resistance needed to lose weight.
Get a Buddy for Motivation
It can get kinda lonely on the long road to losing weight. It helps to have someone to talk to, helps even more if someone is walking down that road with you with the same goals in mind.
Exercising with a buddy is a time-tested motivator. If you are bored or down or do not feel like exercising, your exercise buddy will push you to keep going and you will return the favor when needed. You can test each other, challenge each other and be a source of great encouragement. Exercising with a friend or family member is a good way to ease you into exercise in the initial stages when the going is really tough.
When should you exercise?
Is it better to exercise in the morning or in the evening? Many will argue that it’s better to exercise first thing in the morning on an empty stomach as your body will have to burn fat reserves since it has no carbohydrates to use. Advocates of evening exercise assert that the food you eat through the day will give you energy to exercise more efficiently then, plus the muscles get loose as the day progresses and physical activity in general is easier in the evening. Both camps make good points. However, the eventual decision is really up to you. Are you an early riser and do you like to kick-start your day with a burst of exercise? Or do you prefer to end your long, hard day with a rejuvenating exercise session? If you have no preference, try exercising at both times and see which feels better for you. You have to do what feels right to you individually regardless of what anyone else says. That’s the only way it will work in the long run.
That being said, don’t be rigid in this aspect. For example, if you decide you are better off exercising in the morning but cannot for some reason stick to your plan on a particular day, compensate by planning a session later in the day. The now or never attitude – “I missed my morning exercise so no exercising today” – will get you nowhere and you will eventually end up using it as an excuse to avoid exercise altogether. Be flexible in your mindset and give yourself the option to fall back on Plan B if Plan A does not work. This is another good reason to develop a varied exercise regime.
Obese women can find it very hard to exercise not for lack of will power but because of the challenges that come with being obese. Society views obese women differently, ignoring them completely or ostracising them in ways that can be very hurtful. The curious glances do not help either.
It can be very intimidating to exercise when you are obese. Going to a gym can be a nightmare because the equipment is made for people of average size and it can be embarrassing to discover that you cannot use more than half of the machines there. Some exercises are almost impossible for obese women to do because of the shape of their bodies. The emotion is exacerbated when you make this discovery around other people at the gym. Putting on a swimming suit can be worse than hell. In a celebrity-fuelled culture obsessed with thinness where even the skinny girls are insecure in swimsuits, obese women have a mortifying experience. Even getting out to take a walk can elicit snickers or whispers from people trying to pretend that they are not watching. It can make you extremely self-conscious and can put you off exercising ever again. These are just a few examples of how difficult it is for obese women to stick their exercise plans due to nothing more than sheer embarrassment.
If you have the strength and the courage of will, you can ignore these problems. Most obese women though will have to find ways to work around it. For example, if your exercise takes you outdoors, plan it for when there will be fewer people around like very early in the morning or late in the evening. Try going to the gym when you know there will be a thinner crowd. If you have the money for it, invest in a treadmill or a stationary bike so you can do your exercising at home.
As you lose weight, you will develop your confidence and feel more comfortable exercising around people.
This article is only meant to be a guideline for the types of exercises that obese women should undertake. It should not substitute advice from a healthcare professional. Know that obesity is also a health condition and you should begin any type of exercise only after the OK from your doctor. Certain kinds of exercises may not be suitable for you depending on your individual health and physical state and only a doctor who knows you and is up-to-date on your obesity and medical history can tell you for sure whether or not you are ready to begin a certain type of exercise.
You should also ideally speak to someone who knows about exercise like a nutritionist or a trainer before beginning your exercise program. They may be able to give you advice on how to ease into it, tips to keep you going, and other guidelines on what you should or should not be doing. They may also be able to suggest alterations to your exercise so that you can achieve better results.