How to Start Exercising When You're Overweight

Exercise can be a challenge for individuals who are already overweight, but it’s worth the effort health wise. Physical activity is fundamental in warding off illnesses such as obesity, hypertension, and diabetes, and it gets our endorphins flowing, improving mood and energy levels.

But according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)’s National Center for Health Statistics, only 20.3% of Louisiana adults are getting the recommended amount of exercise, which falls below the US average of 23%. This lack of exercise contributes greatly to the obesity rate in Louisiana, where nearly one out of every four adults is considered obese.

If you’re an adult between the ages of 18 and 64, you should be engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity each week, as well as muscle-strengthening exercises about twice a week. Shorter sessions of 20 to 60 minutes each work better for some individuals. To increase your physical activity, start by making a few simple lifestyle changes: park your car further away from the office, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or agree to be the family’s designated dog walker. Once you start losing weight, the more activity you’ll be able to do.

Some examples of moderate physical activity include walking at about 3 miles per hour, household chores such as vacuuming or mopping, biking at 10 mph or slower, and ballroom dancing. Examples of vigorous physical activity include jogging and hiking, swimming laps, jumping rope, mowing the lawn, and heavy gardening. Be sure to include at least a 5-minute warm up to prepare your muscles for vigorous activity, a stretching phase to minimize the chance of injury, and a cool-down phase to dissipate body heat and reduce the risk of cardiac stress.

An easy way to estimate the difference between moderate and vigorous activity is the “talk test.” If you are doing a moderate intensity activity, you should be able to talk, but not sing. If you are doing a more vigorous activity, you should not be able to say more than a few words without taking a breath.


Mary Thomas, MD​
Baton Rouge General Physicians - Bluebonnet Family Clinic

Phone: (225) 757-6031

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July 17, 2018