What are the three safest exercises and stretches for obese people to do?

As trainers, we look at all aspects of a person’s ability before designing an exercise program. Typically, I will begin by explaining the importance of core training. While the obese client may have difficulty “feeling” his or her abdominal muscles, it is important that they learn to engage the muscles of their core before beginning any type of movement. The stronger your core, the better able you are to successfully accomplish other types of activity, including walking.

Balance and coordination exercises are also top on the list for all clients, especially the obese client. Having extra weight on your body tends to throw off your center of gravity making seemingly easy maneuvers very difficult. Simple balance activities can be balancing on one foot for as long as you can and then switching to the other foot. Hold on to the wall or a chair when beginning this exercise and, with time, you will be able to do this without the assistance. Once you become stable, begin to increase your time on each foot. This exercise will increase the strength in your ankle, knee and hip allowing you to move more easily and efficiently.

An excellent upper body exercise is a wall push-up. Stand with your feet about 12 inches from the wall. Put your hands on the wall wider than shoulder-width apart. Lift up on your toes, bending your elbows to about 90 degrees, bring your nose toward the wall and the push away from the wall by extending your arms straight. Repeat 10 times.

As for stretching, the key areas I would focus on would be your chest, hamstrings (the back of your leg above the knee) and hip flexors (the front of your hips just below your hip bone).

For the chest – stand in a doorway, raise your right arm so that your elbow is bent at 90 degrees. Put your hand on the wall and “walk” through the doorway until you feel a gentle pull in the chest and shoulder areas. Hold stretches for 20-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

For the hamstrings – You can stretch your hamstrings from a seated, standing or lying position. The safest way to do this is to sit on the edge of a stable chair. Straighten your right leg so that the heel is on the floor and the toe is pointed toward the ceiling, with a straight back, lean your chest toward the top of your extended leg. Once you feel a gentle pull in the back of the leg, hold for 20-30 seconds and then release. Repeat on the other leg.

As with any exercise program, it is best to seek the advice of a professional so that you are getting the safest, most effective workout you can.

Good luck and keep moving!

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