6 Best Exercises for Obese Women for Weight Loss

by Millie

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Losing weight is hard, but it’s even harder when you are overweight or obese. I was over 300 pounds with a 49.9 body mass index when I started my weight loss journey in 2019. And I’m so proud to say that I lost 80 pounds in 8 pounds with healthy eating and physical activity. I’m excited to share with you the best exercises for obese women for weight loss.

I know that exercise and physical activity is important at any weight, but when you are over 300 pounds, starting an exercise program that you are able to do is not as easy as it seems. So many of us obese people have physical limitations that make us less physically active. 

It’s a vicious cycle. The heavier you are, the more you need to exercise, but the harder it is to move. I once read that the fit gest fitter and the fat gets fatter.

In my case, I started my weight loss journey with chronic back pain from three bulging discs. There is no way that I can run, spin, do yoga, CrossFit, TRX, and so many more workouts. Heck even getting up from the couch is difficult. And I was out of breath going up one flight of stairs. But I knew I needed to exercise. I had to lose fat and improve my cardiovascular system. But what are the best workouts for overweight women?

Research has shown that low-impact exercise is best for obese beginners. These types of workouts are easier on your joints and research has shown that they can be just as effective as high-impact exercises. 

The best low-impact workouts for obese women like me are cycling, walking, swimming, strength training, yoga, and tai chi.

Best Exercises for Obese Women for Weight Loss

These are exercises to consider if you have a lot of weight to lose. They are all low-impact workouts for overweight women. These exercises are all safer to perform when your excess weight makes it difficult to be physically active.  

Cycling for Weight Loss

woman on exercise bike, one of the best exercises for obese woman for weight loss

Cycling is an excellent exercise for overweight women. When you cycle, you will be able to get your heart rate up and since you will be sitting your extra body weight will not put extra pressure on your knees, ankles, and other joints. Whatever your fitness level, cycling is one of the best ways to start your fitness journey.

I started using a stationary recumbent bike at home. According to Wikipedia, this type of bike “places the rider in a laid-back reclining position. Most recumbent riders choose this type of design for ergonomic reasons; the rider’s weight is distributed comfortably over a larger area, supported by back and buttocks.” If you suffer from back pain, like me, this is a perfect low-impact exercise choice.

My recumbent bike was set up perfectly in my bedroom with a great view of the TV. Being able to watch TV made it super easy to exercise.  

In the first few weeks, I just did 20 minutes five to seven days per week. Then I added 5 minutes every two weeks. I can now ride for 60-65 minutes! Any longer and my butt are numb and hurts.

You can find recumbent bikes in some gyms or, of course, you can purchase one. If you want to buy one, pay attention to the bike’s weight limit. Note that some of the salespeople are not always aware of the weight limits. After all, most of their customers are not obese beginners!

A regular stationary bike is also a good option. You can also go for rides on a regular bicycle around your neighborhood.

As you progress, you can increase the intensity of your workout. Most stationary bikes have different levels of exercise intensity and you can start at the lowest level and increase the tension as you see fit. But go at your pace and only change the level when you are comfortable. 

Walking for Weight Loss

woman on treadmill, one of the best exercises for obese woman
Walking is great for weight loss

Another great exercise for overweight women is walking. Walking will not only help you lose weight, but you can also increase your stamina, energy levels, and bone strength. Furthermore, you can lower your risk of developing diabetes and some types of cancer, including breast cancer.

Start at your own pace and go for as long as you can. Even if it’s only 5 minutes, it’s 5 more minutes than yesterday. You may be slow at the beginning, but you are still lapping everyone on the couch. 

One important thing to remember about walking is that you want to give your feet and knees the proper support and cushioning. If you choose walking as your aerobic exercise, invest in proper walking shoes.

After using my stationary recumbent bicycle for three months, I was able to include walks in my weekly plan. I started at 30 minutes and now can walk for 60 – 75 minutes on most days of the week. I have a Fitbit and now I try to get at least 10,000 steps a day. Counting your steps is a simple way to get you more active. Start small and increase your steps every week or when you can.

Also read 30 Day Step Challenge for Overweight Beginners

Also read Is 10,000 Steps a day Good for Weight Loss

Of course, you can walk in your neighborhood, parks, and malls. I hate Toronto’s cold winter so I walk a lot indoors at home. I march or walk in front of the TV while watching the news. We do have a treadmill at home, but I rarely use it. 

There are plenty of treadmills at gyms so there is one waiting for you. You can also purchase your own if you are more comfortable working out at home. Just remember to check the weight limits.

Swimming for Weight Loss

three smiling women in a pool holding pool noodles, swimming is a good option for overweight women
Swimming is a great exercise for overweight women

Swimming is a perfect exercise for obese women. Swimming works your entire body and is very easy on your joints. Many of us, overweight women, find it hard to do weight-bearing exercises like walking and swimming is an excellent low-impact exercise to burn calories. 

When you swim you have about 80 to 90% less weight pressing on your joints. Consequently, many of us find it easier to swim than walk or cycle. Swimming also increases your core strength and you will work both your upper and lower body.

If you know how to swim, start slowly. You may not be able to swim a full lap, so swim for as long as you can and take as many breaks as you need. 

If you don’t know how to swim, take lessons. It’s important to learn the proper technique to get the full benefits of swimming. Or try a water aerobics class if you can’t swim. Exercising in chest-high water  (i.e., water aerobics or aqua fitness) can increase circulation, reduce swelling and decrease pain from inflammation. 

I didn’t try swimming, instead, I signed up for a water aerobics/aqua fitness class at a local gym (with family change rooms) a few months after riding and walking. And I love it! The buoyancy of the water makes it a lot easier to move. I can even do jumping jacks in the water! 

Eventually, after losing about 20 pounds and feeling fitter, I became more comfortable exercising in public. But I actually feel invisible when I am in the water. And I survived buying a bathing suit … online.

My husband and I did water aerobics twice a week. But thanks to COVID-19, gyms are closed but we hope to resume when they reopen.

Strength Training for Weight Loss

woman using free weights, one of the best exercises for obese woman
Add strength training to gain muscle and lose weight

It’s very easy to start with cardio exercises because they burn more calories, but there are many good reasons to add strength training to your new exercise routine.

The most important reason is that strength training builds muscle and muscle burns more calories than fat. In fact, most experts believe that muscle burns up to three times more calories than fat. And the fat-burning continues for 24 to 48 hours after your workout session. A huge benefit for obese beginners!

Like the other workouts for overweight women, start at your level and use lower weights. Increase your weights and exercise difficulty when you are comfortable. You can exercise at home or at a gym. There are also many exercises you can do while sitting.

I added some strength training once or twice a week a few months into my weight loss journey. And again I do it at home. I do bodyweight exercises and I use 3, 5, or 10-pound dumbbells with some exercises. But you can use water bottles, soup cans or any other object you have at home. Resistance bands are also very inexpensive and easy to use at home and while traveling. I found a full-body strength workout for all sizes from SparkPeople that I really enjoy doing. 

Yoga for Weight Loss

woman doing yoga, one of the best exercises for obese woman
Yoga is a slower-paced exercise suitable for overweight women

You may be surprised to learn that yoga is a great beginning exercise for obese people. As my friend, yoga instructor, and personal trainer explained in Diet and Yoga for Bigger Bodies.

“Yoga can be a great entry point for people who are not conditioned as it is low impact and, generally, slower-paced than conventional fitness classes. 

The emphasis on listening to your body as you move through poses can also be a relief for those who are starting their health and fitness journey.”

I have found that a good yoga teacher will help with modifications and always remind you to listen to your body. You can start at any fitness level and strength level! There are many different types of yoga but ant form will help you lose weight, burn calories, and develop muscle, 

As an added bonus, studies have found that yoga helps to reduce stress and improves your overall health. Also, yoga practitioners are more mindful of what they eat and less likely to be obese. 

Start slowly with a 20 or 30-minute class, two or three times a week. As you get stronger and more flexible you can increase the intensity.

Check out this YouTube video, Beginner Yoga for Bigger Bodies, for a taste of a very gentle yoga exercise for overweight women.

Tai Chi for Weight Loss

two women doing tai chi, one of the best exercises for obese woman
Tai chi can increase your strength, flexibility and balance

Tai chi is another surprising workout for overweight women, I like to think of tai chi as a slower, more gentle, and extremely low impact form of martial arts. If you have ever seen it, you may think it looks like a slow, very slow dance. This ancient Chinese practice is an effective exercise for both your body and mind. 

Studies have found that tai chi can increase your muscles, strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination. Furthermore, it may even be able to reduce high blood pressure and heart function. 

Like yoga, tai chi experts feel that obese and overweight beginners will reduce stress and eventually lead to you making better food choices.

There are many tai chi classes offered in community centers in most cities. Some are even done outdoors. Start with just 20 minutes and have fun!

Here is a short YouTube video on tai chi for beginners if you are interested in starting this gentle exercise..

older woman exercising
Start slowly and go at your own pace

How to Get Started

One study confirmed what we obese people already know, exercise is perceived as more laborious and less pleasant by overweight adults. Furthermore, the researchers concluded that the effect is even more significant when the intensity of the exercise is prescribed or imposed rather than self-selected.

This is a very important finding when you decide on how to start exercising. Here are my tips to get started and continue on your exercise routine based on my experience:

  • Consult with your doctor before you start a new diet or workout program
  • Pick an exercise that you will enjoy
  • Choose a comfortable location (exercising at home may be best for many obese women)
  • Start slowly, go at your own pace
  • Choose days and times to exercise when you have no other time conflicts
  • Only increase the intensity when you are comfortable
  • Be realistic, 
  • To avoid boredom, add other exercises or workouts when you are ready 
  • If possible, exercise with a friend for support
  • Be patient, you didn’t gain the weight overnight so don’t expect to lose it overnight
  • Track your fitness
  • Complement your new exercise routine with a healthy diet 

The thought of workout in a gym is anxiety-provoking for me and other obese people. The people who need the gym the most are sadly the people who feel most uncomfortable and unwelcomed in a gym. 

But there are many exercises you can do in the comfort of your home initially or for as long as you want. You may also like these home workouts for overweight beginners

woman exercising in living room
Aim to do at least 200 minutes of exercise per week for weight loss

How Many Minutes of Exercise Should an Obese Person Do

Some experts recommend at least 200 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week for weight loss. This works out to approximately 3 hours and 20 minutes a week. I know that over 3 hours of exercise a week seems overwhelming, but it is a journey. 

No one expects overweight women, like you and me, to do any of the above workouts for this length of time initially. However, do the best you can when you are just starting out.

The Negative Effects of Obesity

You probably want to lose weight to look and feel better. But as you may be well aware, obesity and overweight are linked to the following diseases:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease and strokes
  • Certain types of cancer
  • Sleep apnea
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Pregnancy problems, such as high blood sugar during pregnancy, high blood pressure, and increased risk for cesarean delivery

And if you are overweight or obese, you know that you can add a few emotional issues to the list, including: 

  • Low self-esteem
  • Low confidence
  • Insecurity
  • Depression
  • Stress 

And in 2020, we learned that obesity, with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 and higher puts you at risk for COVID-19

woman doing yoga
You can lose weight with diet and exercise

How Can an Obese Woman Lose Weight

So there you have it, the best exercises for obese women for weight loss. Yes, it is possible for an obese woman to lose weight. These are the low-impact exercises I have done, along with a healthy diet, to lose 80 pounds in 8 months. 

Check out the top 5 foods for weight loss.

Exercise can make a significant difference to your weight loss journey. The good news is thar your options include cardio workouts, strength training, and more gentle exercises. I started small … only 20 minutes a day. Baby steps are best. You want to listen to your body and do as much as you can. The first step is the hardest, but honestly, if I can do it so can you!

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Mimi June 2, 2020 -

These are awesome, I’m trying to lose weight and I love walking, at night I take my dog out for 40 minutes, it’s better than therapy for me

Millie June 2, 2020 -

Hello Mimi, Thanks for your kind words. It sounds like you have the best walking buddy! Keep walking and the weight will come off.

Kimberly Croisant June 3, 2020 -

I hear swimming is the best exercise for us. It moves every bone and muscle in your body.

Millie June 3, 2020 -

Hi Kimberly, Yes, swimming is amazing. The buoyancy of the water makes it easier to move and therefore you can do more in the water than on land.

Jess June 3, 2020 -

I have been doing water aerobics with my mom who is overweight and it has been amazing for her. I never realized how many benefits there were for it.

Millie June 3, 2020 -

Hi Jess, What a good daughter you are! You are supporting your mom in such an important way. I hope you are also enjoying water aerobics.

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Swimming has always been my first choice for exercise, but I recently bought a little under-desk cycle and get in about 20 miles a day while I work, and I’m really enjoying that right now.

Millie June 3, 2020 -

Hi Renee, I still sit too much and I try to remember to get up and stretch every hour, but I have seen the commercials for those under-desk cycle and I am thinking of getting one. Maybe one I will. Thanks.

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Im trying to lose some weight, im not obese,just some pounds here and there(mostly around my belly area)this is exactly what I need so thanks so much for sharing.

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Hi Roamy, I so glad that I was able to help. You can do it! Good luck!

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