Active at Any Size
You don’t have to be thin to be active. In fact, it is important for people to maintain active lifestyles, regardless of size. Physical activity can be fun and exciting for all body types.
With that being said, people who are large may struggle with certain types of physical activity because it can be harder to move the body in manners required for certain activities. Additionally, large people may struggle to find the appropriate clothing needed, or they may feel uncomfortable about exercising in front of others. Some equipment is not large enough to accommodate for certain body types.
Even though exercise can be difficult, it is not impossible. The following information is meant to assist people of all body types with their endeavors related to physical activity.
Why should I be active? BEING physically active may help you live longer and protect you from:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
People who are already struggling with the issues above should still consider physical activity because it can help with some of the related symptoms.
Furthermore, physical activity can be both engaging and entertaining.
Physical activity is also beneficial because it:
- Reduces stress and helps make you feel more positive.
- Makes you stronger and more flexible while improving your balance and movement.
- Assists with keeping your blood pressure and blood sugar under control.
- Assists with the building of strong, healthy bones and other body parts.
- Strengthens your heart and lungs.
- Makes you feel better about yourself.
- Helps to increase your energy levels.
How do I get started?
Below is a list of advice to help you become more physically active:
Consider what has been keeping you from physical activity in the first place, and then brainstorm solutions that can be used to get past these limits.
You can get past your reservations by:
- Taking it slow. Do not try to do too much at the beginning because your body needs time to make the adjustment.
- Conducting warm-up exercises. This helps to get your blood flowing. Some examples of warm-up exercises are slow walking, marching, or tapping. You may also want to warm up your upper body by shrugging your shoulders or moving your arms.
- Conducting cool-down exercises. Do not stop abruptly. Let your body ease into the end of the exercises so that your heartbeat can slow down and you can avoid injury.
- Be good to yourself!
- Try not to get down on your self esteem if you are unable to complete activity. Focus on your accomplishments and the changes you have already made.
- Give yourself credit for the attempt, regardless of whether you are able to immediately reach your goals.
How do I continue to be active?
Below is some advice to help you stay active:
- Make a promise to yourself. This will help with your motivation. You will want to accomplish the goals you have set.
- Set goals. It is important to have both long and short-term goals to stay motivated. An example of a short term goal is to walk for a short period of time for a certain number of days a week. This can be extended into a long term goal of exercising for at least a half hour a day a certain number of days a week. Remember that you do not have to complete all of the physical activity at one time. You can take breaks or exercises in increments throughout the day.
- Set rewards. Rewards can help you to maintain your motivation. Once you reach a short or a long term goal, you should reward yourself. Shopping for something new that is related to the physical activity is an example of a reward.
- Get support. It is easier to be physically active if someone else is willing to do so with you so that there will be more accountability. This can also make the activity more enjoyable.
- Track progress. Write down everything you do so that you will have a record of your progress to refer to whenever you are feeling discouraged.
- Try to be open-minded and willing to have new experiences!
What physical activities can a very large person do?
The majority of large people are able to participate in a variety of physical activities. Some examples include:
- Activities that involve using your own weight for resistance, such as walking up the stairs or simply going for a stroll.
- Activities that do not involve weight pressure, such as swimming. These types of activity are not as hard on your joints.
- Activities that relate to your lifestyle, such as gardening. Day-to-day activities, like washing your car, are also considered forms of physical activity. You do not need to schedule these activities in advance; you can do them at your whim.
Keep in mind that physical activity can be fun. It does not necessarily have to be difficult. All types of movement can be helpful to the body.
Some of the benefits of simply walking include:
- Overall fitness improvement
- Calories burned during the process
- Energy gained through consistent physical activity
Below are some suggestions for beginning a walking regimen:
- Start small. Walk for about 5 minutes at first, and then gradually build on your time from week to week. It is important to slowly increase your time and speed so that you will not hurt yourself.
- Also, be sure to increase the number of times you walk a week little by little. This helps your body to rest. Increasing the exercise over time is beneficial because it makes your body work harder.
- Wear the right kind of shoes, and buy new ones when needed.
- Wear clothing that is appropriate for physical activity. Certain materials can prevent chafing.
- Try to enjoy the activity. Go to places that you like to be around, and consider taking a friend with you.
Do I need to see my health care provider before I start being physically active?
People who are in one or more of the following categories need to talk to a doctor before becoming physically active:
– People with ongoing diseases, like asthma.
– People who are at risk of getting an ongoing disease.
-People who have high blood pressure or cholesterol. This also includes people who have relatives who have had heart disease.
-Women who are pregnant.
– People who smoke.
-People who do not know whether physical activity is safe for them.
It is unlikely that you will need a complete medical exam before you go out for a short walk.
Dancing (Weight Bearing or Nonweight Bearing)
Dancing is beneficial because it can:
- Strengthen your muscles
- Increase your flexibility
- Strengthen your heart health
- Strengthen your lungs
There are many places to dance. You can do so within your own home, or you could go out to a club if you like to dance with other people.
If you are standing while dancing, you are doing a weight-bearing activity; on the other hand, if you sit while dancing, you are doing a non-weight-bearing type of exercise. People can dance while sitting by moving their arms and legs without standing up. Those who struggle to stand may want to consider this type of exercise.
Water Workouts (Non-weight Bearing)
Some of the benefits of water workouts include:
- The ability to become more flexible within the water.
- The lowered risk of hurting yourself or becoming very sore.
- The ability to stay cooled off in the water, regardless of how difficult the workout.
People who have not learned how to swim should consider doing activities in the shallow end of the pool.
If you choose to exercise in the shallow end of the pool, make sure the water goes all the way up to your chest for ease of mobility. Also, make sure it is easy for you to touch the ground with your feet.
If you choose to exercise in the deep end, you may want to acquire a floatation device for extra security.
People who are interested in working out with groups in the water should consider taking a class. Classes are generally scheduled at swim centers
Where to Work Out
Some activities are quite easy to do within the home, which offers a sense of privacy. On the other hand, health clubs and recreation centers are also available, and it can be more entertaining to work out in places like those. You could also conduct physical activity outside. Try not to let self-conscious thoughts get in the way of having an enjoyable workout wherever you please.
Weight Training (Weight Bearing and Non-weight Bearing)
Some of the benefits of weight training include:
- An increase in muscle or bone strength.
- The ability to do so both inside and outside of the house.
- The amount of calories burned through these types of exercises.
It is not necessary to purchase expensive weights. Items around your house, such as soup cans, can be used for training.
A personal trainer can help you get started with weight training by teaching you how to hold your body and how to move the weights in a controlled manner. Doctors can help you to find a personal trainer, and some insurance companies will even cover the cost.
Before purchasing any machinery, make sure that it will be able to hold your weight safely. Consider looking around at different fitness centers as well.
One of the major rules of weight training is to not pick up anything that you cannot lift six times in a row because that means you are trying to hold too much weight. If you can lift it more than 15 times, it is probably too low of a weight.
Bicycling (Non-weight Bearing)
There are several different ways in which a person can bike. You could use a stationary bike inside. The petals will move, but the bike will stay in place. On the other hand, you can also use a regular bike to exercise outside. One of the benefits to biking is that it is not hard on any specific body part.
Recumbent bikes can be a great option for people beginning physical activity. This bike has a much lower seat and is generally more comfortable than a regular bike.
People who are interested in biking outside should consider using a mountain bike because you can purchase a seat to adjust to your weight, and the tires on mountain bikes are sturdier.
It is important to check to make sure the bike can safely hold your weight before making a purchase.
Yoga (Weight Bearing or Non-weight Bearing)
Some of the benefits of yoga include:
- Increase in flexibility
- Increase in level of relaxation
- Better posture
- Some people do yoga to help get rid of stress.
Many fitness centers hold classes for yoga or other related forms of exercise. Classes that are geared toward the elderly tend to be less difficult on the muscles.
Questions to Ask When Choosing a Fitness Center
-Is the equipment safe for people with larger bodies?
-Are people who work at the center trained in working with larger people?
-Will I be able to test out the center to see if I like it before making a commitment?
-Is health and having fun through physical activity goals of the center?
-When the center is open, and at what times is it the most full?
It is possible to be active without planning out your exercises. Some of the activities you could do include:
Walking throughout the day
Getting off of the couch to adjust the TV volume or channel
Walking in place while the TV is on
Talking on the phone and moving at the same time
Doing things with your family
Chores (including activities like mowing the lawn and cleaning the house)
Try not to get down on yourself if you can only do some of the activities listed above. You can improve over time, and it is important to focus on your current abilities. All types of movement are good for the health.
Below are some safety precautions to consider while doing physical activity:
Immediately discontinue an activity if you:
Feel pain in the chest, neck, shoulder, or arm
Feel tightness or pressure in any of those areas
Begin to sweat in a cold, clammy way
Feel a cramp in a muscle
Have trouble breathing
Have pain in the joints or body parts below the waist because overuse can lead to injury.
Always consult a doctor if you have these symptoms while conducting physical activity.
There is no shame in reducing your speed if you begin to feel breathless.
One way to tell whether you are working out too hard is to conduct a “talk test.”
If it is very hard for you to talk while exercising, you may be pushing harder than you should. Try to move more slowly so that you can reach an intensity that allows you to talk without feeling like you can’t breathe.
Wear Suitable Clothes
Clothes that are not too tight or too heavy are usually best.
Some clothes are made of material that dries the sweat. These can help get the sweat off of the skin.
Do not wear clothing that does not allow the skin to breathe because you could become too hot. This can be dangerous.
It is important for women to wear a bra that feels comfortable and supportive.
When applicable, wear shoes that offer a lot of support.
If you exercise outside, consider the weather before leaving the house. If it is very cold, you should wear a knit hat. If it is very warm, you may want to wear a wide-brimmed hat.
Always wear sunscreen to protect the skin.
Be sure to buy clothes that prevent chafing.
Consume water periodically, especially when you feel thirst. It is very important to hydrate yourself consistently.
Compliments of Kshamica Nimalasuriya MD, MPH
Preventive Medicine & Public Health