Beginning Exercises for Obese People

The American College of Sports Medicine, or ACSM, reports that approximately 32 percent of adults in the United States are classified as obese. The ACSM recommends that everyone, including obese individuals, participate in regular physical activity for health benefits beyond only weight control. According to the National Institute on Aging, obese people can safely do exercises such as walking, water activities, and strength training.


Obesity may be accompanied by other health conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and metabolic syndrome. Because of the possibility of these and other conditions, the ACSM recommends obese individuals visit with a doctor for medical clearance before starting a regular exercise program. A doctor can help determine what conditions may exist and how to treat them. A doctor will also help determine what exercises can safely be done.


The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases reports that walking is an easy way to exercise, even for obese individuals. Walking is inexpensive, can be done anywhere and only requires sturdy, comfortable shoes. For obese people, walking for more than a few minutes may be difficult. Walking in shorter bouts and gradually working up to 30 minutes on most days of the week will provide improvements in cardiovascular health. The ACSM states that 60 minutes or more of aerobic exercise, such as walking, may be necessary for weight loss and weight maintenance.

Water Activities

A 2010 study published in “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise” found that water-based exercise activities promote quality of life for obese individuals and those with osteoarthritis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, reports that some people enjoy water-based activities more than land activities and can exercise for longer in the water without increased joint pain. Swimming laps or participating in water aerobics classes are some examples of water-based exercises.

Strength Training

The ACSM recommends strength training, or resistance training, for obese individuals as part of a balanced exercise program. Resistance training can include weight lifting, using resistance bands or participating in exercises that use body weight as resistance. Strength training can improve metabolism, improve bone health and counteract potential losses of muscle function and balance associated with aging. The CDC recommends exercising the major muscle groups at least two days per week to improve or maintain muscle strength.

About this Author

Blake Hagen has been writing since 2008. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in exercise science with an emphasis in fitness and wellness management from Brigham Young University. He is also a certified Health Fitness Specialist through the American College of Sports Medicine.