How to Start an Exercise Routine When You Are Overweight

If your weight is putting you in the obese category, it can be intimidating even starting to think how to start an exercise routine when you are overweight. Starting an exercise plan needs a little resolution and can lead to worries — and for a good reason.

As an overweight person, certain movements and exercises may be too uncomfortable or painful to perform and can your body even take it.

Well it's not the end of the world.

There are many measures you can take to ease into a regular exercise routine so you can reap the benefits of training without risking injury and burnout.

How to Start an Exercise Routine When You Are Overweight and losing Weight
A regular exercise routine can absolutely help you lose weight – a lot of it!

Sure, exercise may take a toll on your body, but once you have the right plan, and know how to progress, , you’ll be able to do it without hurting yourself.

Almost everyone can do walking as exercise no matter how overweight you might be but you do need to avoid overdoing it, which will be different for each individual, and you do need to plan it out before starting especially so if you are overweight because of the increased health risks.

The rewards for walking as exercise are very attractive though. Check out our article on the Health Benefits of Fitness Walking for some examples to motivate you.

In today’s post, I’m sharing with you the guidelines you need to take up exercise without risking injury or burnout. By implementing the following, you’ll be able to lose the extra pounds, get fit, and stay so for good.

Sounds good.

Let’s get started.

Visit Your Doctor

Of course, you don’t need a doctor to tell you that exercise is good for you, but if you’re overweight and have zero exercise experience, they may need to advise you if it’s safe to start.

That’s why you should start any new exercise resolution by contacting your doctor to see if there are any specific exercises that you should avoid.

This is especially the case if any of the following applies:

  • Having dizzy spells
  • Have chronic health issues such as asthma, heart diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis.
  • Taking meds that make you feel drowsy or dizzy
  • Feeling extremely wobbly on your feet
  • You’re being treated for cancer or have recently finished treatment

Most importantly, be honest with your doctor and explain to them the reasons you want to start exercising as well as your weight loss and training goals.

Use the plan below which shows how to start and exercise routine when you are overweight and discuss it with your doctor. That way you can be confident on that the specific suggestions we are giving you are perfect for your specific scenario.

How to Start an Exercise Routine When You Are Exceedingly Overweight
Even if you are really very overweight, walking is a fantastic exercise to start.

Start Walking

You got the green light from your doctor?

Great. Now it’s time to get moving. But how do you take the first few steps?

Before you start throwing weights around or pound the pavement, bring first some movement into your life. In other words, your first steps should be walking steps.

Walking requires minimum gear, and it can be done almost everywhere. It also improves mobility and strength and can be easily scaled to meet your specific needs.

Not to mention that it’s also low impact—posing no threat to your health. And it can vary in both duration and intensity.

What’s more?

Walking at a brisk 30 minutes can burn up to 150 calories. Not bad, right?

That’s why as far as I can tell, walking is the most convenient weight loss exercise and low intensity, of course.

If you are new to exercise, start by walking three to four times per week for at least 20 to 30 minutes.  As you get fitter, increase the duration and frequency of your walks until you’re trudging along for more than 60 minutes per day, six times a week.

What’s more?

Make sure to use a pedometer to keep track of the number of steps you walk every day. Most health experts recommend shooting for at least 10,000 steps per day to be in the healthy range.

Strength Training

After a few weeks into a walking program, it’s time to start lifting some weights.

Strength training is good for overweight gym-goers and for many reasons.

Lifting weights regularly helps you build muscle strength, shift body composition, and revs up metabolism, etc. But that’s not the whole story.

When you’re obese, strength training may help you fix many of the postural problems that result from carrying all that extra weight around. It also improves your joints’ range of motion.

Lifting weights also makes you more functional, making it easier to do daily tasks, such as lifting your kids, climbing stairs, or carrying groceries. What’s not to like!

As a beginner, start with two to three full-body resistance workouts per week, having at least a full day of rest in between. To get the most bangs out of your buck, do total-body exercises, such as squats, push-ups, lunges, and planks.

Also, keep in mind that proper form is key. If you can afford it, hire a personal trainer to help you build proper technique. You’ll find it easier to develop good form from the get-go instead of trying to break bad movement patterns later on.

How to Start an Exercise Routine to get fit When You Are Overweight 2
Once you have started walking you can increase distance, speed or length of time to improve fitness more and more

Pound The Pavement

Want to take your training to the next level? Start Jogging.

I know. Overweight beginners shouldn’t be pounding the pavement. But there are always ways you can work out around your limitations—running when you’re overweight is no exception. Where there's a will, there's a way.

When it comes to running, alternating between jogging and walking segments is the way to go. This is especially the case if you have already invested a few months in walking and strength training and have built some endurance and strength.

Here’s how to proceed.

Start your session with a 10-minute brisk walk to increase your heart rate and blood flow.

Next, while sticking to a conversational pace, jog for 30 seconds and then walk for one minute to recover. Repeat the cycle for 15 minutes, and then finish it off with a 5-minute walk as a cool down.

Do more as you get fitter. Aim to increase the time you spend jogging while taking less and less for recovery until you’re able to run for 20 to 30 minutes at a comfortable pace and without panting for air.

How long will it take you depends on your specific conditions, but do it for long enough, and you’ll get there. It’s just a matter of practice and consistency.

Listen to your body

Whether you’re walking, lifting weights, or jogging, the most important thing to keep on your mind is to always pay attention to your body. Getting fit without getting hurt should be your motto.

The worst thing you can do—other than staying a couch potato for life—is to overstrain so that you have to take a week off, or stop training altogether because it’s too painful.

Sure, expect some discomfort. After all, if it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you. But that doesn’t mean that the pain should be your ultimate measuring stick.

Cut down on your training if you’re suffering from any of the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Severe muscle or joint pain
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Heart palpitations
  • Severe chest pain

How to Start an Exercise Routine When You Are Overweight – Your Action Plan

Here’s a simple five-day workout routine you could follow to make the most of your training program.

Day 1 – Strength day: Perform three sets of the following

  • 15 bodyweight squats
  • 20-second planks
  • Ten modified push-ups
  • Eight lunges

Day 2 – Moderate Cardio Day: Walk briskly for 60 minutes

Day 3 – Rest Day

Day 4—Moderate Cardio Day – Walk briskly for 45 minutes

Day 5—Strength Day – perform three sets of the following:

  • 12 modified pushups
  • 20 sumo squats
  • Ten crunches
  • Ten side lunges

Day 6 – Intense Cardio Day. After a 10-minute brisk walk, alternate between:

  • 30 seconds jog
  • 60 seconds brisk walk

Day 7 – Rest Day


There you have it. The above training guidelines should prove enough to get started on the exercise path. You just need to put them into practice as soon as possible. The rest is just details, as the saying goes.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions below.