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The Benefits of Exercise for Overweight and Obese People

Being overweight and obese causes a variety of health problems, reduces mobility and can even result in early death. Exercise is a proven way to lose weight and actually reverse these problems. Learn the benefits of exercise and how you can exercise safely.

The Benefits of Exercise

Regular physical activity can help improve both the physical and emotional consequences of being overweight and obese, says Jennifer Turgiss, vice president of behavior science and advanced analytics at Johnson & Johnson.

“Just one bout of moderately vigorous physical activity can improve your mood and increase your energy immediately,” Turgiss says. If you’re trying to lose weight, that’s important because it can be part of a chain reaction. “Improved mood and energy can help you maintain motivation to do the helpful behaviors related to obesity, such as choosing lower-calorie foods, practicing portion control and adding more movement to each day to burn more calories,” she says.

In addition, exercise helps result in a healthier body overall, including potential reductions in your body mass index. “Regular physical activity can independently lower the risk of developing the obesity-related health conditions even while individuals are still overweight,” Turgiss says.

Exercise also makes your muscles strong, eliminates the pain that too much weight places on the body and helps you develop better balance so you can avoid falls.

How to Avoid Injuries

When you begin to exercise, it’s important to use proper form to avoid injuries, says Alice Ann Dailey, author of “Dailey Strengthening: 6 Keys to Balance Core Muscles for Optimal Health.” “For example, if you’re on a treadmill or bike, you might be tempted to lean forward, but if you don’t maintain proper posture this will cause back and neck pain.” When running, she says, your shoulders and arms should be relaxed to avoid shoulder tension.

It’s also important to warm up and stretch before you start exercising, and to pay attention to trouble spots so you don’t aggravate them. For example, don’t try to run or walk if you have a bad knee; it’s better to choose an exercise that allows you to sit down. Or if you have a bad shoulder, don’t try to lift weights.

Also, don’t overdo it. When you’re starting out, stop and rest when you feel tired. If you overexert yourself, you won’t want to exercise again anytime soon.

Why It’s Never Too Late

Regardless of your weight, it’s never too late to start exercising. “If you're sedentary and obese and you lie on the sofa all day, you have two big risk factors: You're obese and you're sedentary,” says Dr. Kathryn Boling, a family medicine specialist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. “But if you get off the sofa and just do moderate exercise, you’re less likely to die from all kinds of health problems compared to someone who is obese and sedentary.”

Boling says you don’t have to run three miles a day or exercise for several hours at a time; you just need to start moving. According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention, even 60 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity is good.

You might not be at the point yet where you can do moderately intensive exercises like walking briskly or doing water aerobics. However, just walking around the block or spending a few minutes on a treadmill is a good start.

As you begin to exercise, it will become easier and you will build up your endurance levels. And soon you’ll notice the results of your efforts, and be motivated to exercise even more.

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