FIGHTING OBESITY: WHY MOVING MORE IS CRUCIAL
a four-part series on obesity and weight loss
Are you sluggish and lethargic? If you are seriously overweight, you probably don’t exercise. It can be very difficult for an unfit person to muster up the motivation to move. And you may have good reasons for staying put:
• Your joints may hurt
• You may feel like you don’t have the energy to exercise
• You may be embarrassed to work out around other people
• You may hate to exercise or find it so boring you can’t stand to do it
• You may feel like you have no time to fit in extra activity
• You may be discouraged at the thought of exercising because it’s never worked before
• You may find exercising too darn difficult, and who likes to do something that feels bad?
All of these are justifiable explanations for why you don’t exercise, and there may be many more. In Part 1 of this series, I pointed out that there may even be a genetic or biological basis for your tendency to be sedentary. But nothing changes the fact that you must find a way to move more—now.
Every day that you sit more than you move is another day that you allow your healthy body to deteriorate. If you can no longer tie your shoes, if you avoid getting on the floor because it is too difficult to get back up, or if doing something simple like grocery shopping tires you out, then you have reached a point where you are losing natural functions. It will only get worse.
Harsh, I know. But you simply must start taking care of your most important asset—your body. If you approach getting fit properly, moving more will be easier than you think. You may not ever become a world-class athlete, but you can become healthier, stronger, more energized and leaner simply by being getting off that chair.
Always talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program. This is especially true if you have any medical conditions, such as arthritis, hypertension, back problems or heart disease. Some drugs or medical treatments may affect your workouts by affecting your hydration status, your heart rate or your balance, for example. Your doctor will give you the guidance you need.
Once that chat is out of the way, don’t worry about how much exercise you should do, just start doing something. The key is to move more every day. And if for you that means moving for five or 10 minutes, so be it. During any workout, be it on a spin bike or walking around your backyard, if you feel dizzy, faint, weak or nauseous or feel any pain, slow down or stop. Start by doing super-short spurts of activity every day and add a few minutes more each week. View this as a long-term goal: Start from moving for 5 minutes a day and adding one minute per week, so that in a year’s time you have worked up to 60 minutes a day. You can do longer sessions all at once, or in different chunks throughout the day. Start small and take baby steps to progress.
Here are some suggestions on how to get your body moving :
For the extremely overweight and unfit person who finds it difficult standing or walking :
Exercise in your chair. Many fitness DVDs and videos provide easy beginner routines that you can do while seated. One good one is Sit and Be Fit. This chair-exercise program, designed by registered nurse Mary Ann Wilson, runs on public TV and is also available for purchase.
Exercise in bed. Lie on your bed and move your arms and legs as if you were swimming. Lifting them one at a time is less stressful than lifting two arms or two legs at a time. Keep the movement smooth and continuous, starting with two minutes of moving and adding 30 seconds per day. If you need to rest, that’s OK. Move for one minute, then relax for one to two, and repeat.
Exercise while watching TV. While sitting on the sofa, find a good half-hour TV show or news program and move your arms and legs throughout. If 30 minutes seems too onerous, start by moving only during the commercials, say, but add a little more time each day to eventually work up to the full program.
Swim. This may be one of the most enjoyable ways for you to exercise. If you feel self-conscious about wearing a bathing suit, call the pool office and ask if there are times when the area is quieter. Or bring a friend—there is strength in numbers! You don’t even need to know how to swim; just stay in the shallow end and simply walk back and forth. (If you can’t swim, consider signing up for swimming lessons. It’s never too late to learn!) Many pools also offer water-aerobics classes. These routines are very, very easy and fun.
Do toning and/or strengthening exercises. You can find suggested exercise routines in books, DVDs, videos, Web sites, etc. Use light weights, elastic exercise bands or tubing or nothing at all to start with. As you get stronger, you will naturally feel comfortable challenging yourself more. If an exercise, such as a squat, hurts your knees or back: Don’t do it. Find another move to do. I’d suggest getting professional advice from a certified fitness instructor or personal trainer. If you can splurge on an evening out at a restaurant and a movie, you can probably afford one or two sessions with a trainer. Many will even come to your home. To find a trainer look here and here.
Try cardio machines. While you may not be able to walk on a treadmill, other machines such as a recumbent or regular stationary bike, a rowing machine or a stepper may work for you. Start by using a machine for just three to five minutes at its easiest level, then work your way up to longer periods..
For the overweight and unfit person who is comfortable standing and walking :
Exercise while you watch TV. Pick your favorite show that you watch every day and move as you watch. Get off the couch. Stand and march in place, lift your knees, do the twist, pump your arms, kick to the front and sides or just dance. Start by moving for five to 10 minutes and work your way up, adding a minute each day until you’re active throughout the entire program.
Do home fitness workouts. Many overweight people initially get in shape by working out in the privacy of their own home. Go to this site to find a good workout DVD or video. Make sure to pick a beginning fitness level or follow the modifications to make the workout easier if you’re straining to keep up.
Walk. Unless you have a joint problem, walking may be the easiest and most effective activity to do. You can walk on a treadmill or outside. Start by walking for five to 10 minutes and work your way up to longer periods. Walking slowly is fine. As you feel more sure of your steps, walk a little faster.
Nordic walk. This activity is walking—only using ski-like poles. These poles help you push your body forward and also provide additional support. You may find them effective in reducing stress on your joints and feeling more balanced. See this Web site for information.
Take a fitness class. Any movement is good. Pilates, yoga and weight-lifting classes will help you build muscle strength and stamina. More active workouts such as a cycling class, a water fitness class, a dance class, an aerobic class, a boxing class, a step class and the like will help you burn calories. Keep in mind that group-fitness classes may perform at a more advanced fitness level than you are currently at. A good instructor will allow you to tone it down. If you feel comfortable doing so, then do just that. If that would make you uncomfortable, even if you stood in the back, then don’t attempt to take classes just yet. Or find an ultra-beginner class that suits your level. As you get fitter, you will naturally be inclined to ramp it up.
Sign up and learn. Taking lessons in an activity like ballroom dance or a martial art may be a good way to find a way to move that you enjoy.
Avoid sports for now. You should probably not take up a new sport until you have built up a base level of fitness. Sports can require speed and coordination and may push you exert yourself more than you should. Sports can be a fun way to log movement minutes, but make sure you are fit enough to partake.
Now start moving!