Overcome Barriers to Exercise with Obesity

If you have obesity, you have likely been told that you should exercise to support your health. But that can feel "easier said than done." Everyone experiences barriers to exercise in our modern world. But there can be even more barriers when you have obesity. There are some well-documented, obesity-specific barriers to exercise. And there are also some strategies to overcome them.

Overcoming stigma

Physical activity can be challenging because of weight-based stigma. Seasoned athletes often do not understand what it is like to have obesity. They may do or say things that are unhelpful. Or, you may be critical of yourself or feel frustrated that you aren’t as active or strong as you would like to be.1

Some people report that they avoid these experiences by working out in environments free of stigma. Working out at home is one way to enjoy activity without stigma. And some gyms are working to establish a more inclusive environment. Consider trying out a few different classes or gyms to find supportive people.1

If you are hard on yourself about exercise, there are some behavioral strategies that can help. Working with a therapist can help you view exercise differently. Having a more positive and healthy perspective about your ability to be active can go a long way. 2

Overcoming the physics of weight

Exercising with a higher weight is hard. Even with a high level of fitness, the weight you carry can make exercise more challenging. It increases the load on your muscles, your heart, and your weight-bearing joints.

Think of it this way: Imagine anyone doing an exercise, and then doing that same exercise with a weighted vest on. Naturally, doing the exercise with the weighted vest on will require more work. The extra weight will result in breathing harder and getting tired more quickly. That is why someone with obesity may tire more quickly than someone who does not have obesity.

One thing that may help is weight training to make your muscles stronger. When your muscles are stronger, they can do the work required to move a larger body more easily. Endurance training can also help delay your fatigue. That way you can exercise for longer periods of time.

Joint care is also critical when leading a more active lifestyle with obesity. Obesity means more stress on weight-bearing joints. That leads to more wear and tear during activity. Strength training can improve the muscles that support your joints. Also, consider activities like rowing or swimming. They have tremendous health benefits but do not stress your weight-bearing joints.

A shift in mindset

In my experience, a shift in mindset can have the biggest impact. It can be discouraging or even embarrassing when you tire quickly or if you have trouble keeping up with people in smaller bodies. It is important to recognize that even when you tire faster, you are still as strong – or, in many cases, stronger than the people around you.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Obesity.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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