The irony of fitness promotion is that it rarely shows images of overweight people at the gym or using a set of dumbbells – even though they’re the group that often needs the most encouragement.
There are ever growing numbers with in the fitness industry that wanting to the change the ads for gyms that photos of muscled men and lean women in crop tops because they’re the people already working out.
We need to create an acceptance of overweight people exercising – and gyms could benefit by using more images of bigger people along with bigger people themselves.
We need to send messages that anyone can get fitter with exercise.
There are small steps forward. The fat yoga movement is spreading the word that yoga works for people of any size and, for all it critics, Channel 10’s Biggest Loser program has helped normalise the idea of bigger people working out.
Exercise physiologists that work with clients carrying extra kilos do not condone The Biggest Loser’s training style but recognise it has created empathy and a greater understanding of what it’s like to be very overweight. Working with weight loss clients allows exercise professionals to witness firsthand the empowerment clients experience from seeing others with weight to lose, getting fitter.
One obstacle to helping overweight, inactive people get fitter is the perception that they have to blast their bodies with fast, high-intensity exercise.
People see research in the media about how high-intensity interval training can burn fat and they start believing they need to flog themselves to get results and it puts them off – or they give it a try and get an injury.
Instead, helping inactive people can mean starting small – perhaps with as little as ten minutes a day, sometimes divided into five two-minute sessions for the very inactive. It might not seem like much but the key to getting people fitter is helping them build a regular habit by focusing on what they can do.
Something as simple as walking for 30 minutes a day can make a huge difference to an inactive person’s health.
Along with regular walks, good ways to exercise for anyone carrying a lot of weight include stationary bikes and weights machines at the gym. An exercise bike is better than running because it can boost cardiovascular fitness without putting a load on the joints, while weights machines can help people exercise and build strength in large muscle groups which helps with weight loss and blood sugar control.
It’s not hard for weight and inactivity to creep up – often triggered by life changes like having a baby or retirement. For mothers of young babies, the energy deficit that comes from lack of sleep and the demands of parenthood can make it harder to fit in exercise, while retirement can bring more sitting. Injuries, illness, traumatic events or life changes like a new job can also set people up for inactivity.
It becomes a cycle. The less active you are, the more lethargic you become and gradually you become weaker and it gets harder to be active.
Another common trigger for inactivity in adulthood is from bad memories of exercise during childhood stemming from PE classes or sport in school when they were never picked for a team and felt they weren’t good enough or were too big.
The beauty of taking on the services of an exercise professional is that you can make it work for you no matter what your situation. For example, if you are on a tight budget or feel self-conscious about going for a walk outdoors you have the option of getting an exercise program to follow at home.
Home programs help overcome obstacles as it’s too expensive of the belief that everyone is looking at them so process of building routine and self-confidence can start at home. They may not burn the same energy as they would in partnership with a trainer but it’s more about ease of movement and to see how good movement feels and doesn’t take long for the body to feel the benefit.
The body responds instantly to a bout of exercise – excess blood sugar is taken up and used by the muscles and there’s a measurable drop in blood pressure after physical activity which lasts for several hours to follow – and with a regular exercise habit these can soon turn into long-term changes.
Underneath the layers of weight there are muscles that need movement to build their strength – having that strength will make it much easier to move.
If you are carrying extra weight and need help to get fitter click here for your Free Trial Pass to Melbourne’s Fitness and Weight Loss Program.