Running

Can you run if you are overweight?

By June 21, 2018 March 7th, 2019 No Comments

Aerobic exercises like running a great way to lose weight, Radhika Meganathan explores how overweight people can run. 

A high intensity exercise like running burns calories fast and is often touted as a good way to lose those excess inches you want to get rid of desperately. Or maybe you just want to run for the experience of it. But what about the practicality of running when you are overweight? Can you start a running schedule if you are so out of form that you feel breathless just by walking faster?

“The answer to the question is yes, but you cannot start right away,” says Dr Archana Samson, who works as clinical physiotherapist at NHS Wycombe, UK. “You have to first prepare your body for running, to prevent any harm to your joints, or even the heart, if you begin too fast. Preparing is really important, as are discipline, lifestyle change, and your medical history.”

That makes sense, doesn’t it? If you are overweight, chances are that you have not exercised for a while and your joints would be stiff. Here are some steps that you can take, if you want to begin a running regimen from start:

Begin with the right motivation

A lot of overweight people feel that it is too late for them to start running, because it is just too hard. Well, if you want to run a mile right away, then yes, that will be too hard with the current equipment you have in hand – your out-of-form body! Fitness is a skill, just like any other skill like cooking or swimming, and it is unfortunate that most of us feel bad when we cannot instantly become great at something that we see others do easily. Just like how a beginner cannot expect to make an intricate dish on Day 2, it is unreasonable to expect your body to master running at the first attempt itself. Give it the time it needs. Progress, nor perfection must be your beginners’ mantra.

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Consultation first, the gear next

“A medical check up along with your physician’s approval is extremely important before starting any fitness regime. The analysis will locate any danger points or bottlenecks you may need to be aware of,” advises Dr Archana. If you are overweight and eager to start running, your doctor will also tell you how to monitor your heart rate and start slowly. Once you get cleared for the sport of running, get a gait analysis done and buy the idea pair of shoes for your body. Invest in compression shirts if your upper body is heavy. For women, a fitness bra is a must-do investment, to avoid stretching and sagging. For added advantage, spend some time on live and research about running basics so that you are familiar with the jargon and practice before you hit the ground (literally).

Start with walking

Start slowly, gently. Walk out of your door and stroll for 10 minutes at any direction. Then walk back. Do this morning and night, every day, preferably on waking up and before going to bed. It takes 21 days to form a habit, so in this way, you also build discipline. On the fourth week, begin the walk-jog method at your own pace. Start with 15 second increments every day. Walk a minute, jog for 15 seconds, walk a minute. Rest a minute. Continue until you feel pleasantly tired. Once you can walk without breathing issues or any pain, you can start trying out a program like Couch2k. If you are looking for a self designed regimen, there are several that are available online for free.

What if you have additional health issues?

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A structured, supervised program may be the answer if you have obesity-related issues. Low intensity physiotherapy exercises and gradual progression into a healthy diet are part of initial management when you enlist medical help to tackle associated conditions. “Arthritis, back pain, musculoskeletal and chronic conditions such as heart diseases are often common in overweight persons. In this case, I recommend a drafted program which would include regular supervision, prescription of appropriate physical activity to increase muscle strength, flexibility, endurance, and steps to maintain weight loss under safe and controlled conditions,” says Dr Archana.

What’s your end goal?

If your main objective is to lose weight by running, you must be extra careful. It is shockingly easy for some to put on more weight because aerobic exercises like running and swimming make you hungrier, and they end up eating more, while thinking “Oh but I have done my exercise for the day so it’s okay to eat!”. Weight loss is a science and it is about burning more calories than what you put in, so talk to a nutritionist about calorie counting and the right diet for your running schedule.

“Regardless of why you run, do not let anybody shame or heckle you, and never feel ashamed of your body at any point. You are now running and making a positive lifestyle change, which means you are way ahead of all those who have not taken this step yet,” affirms Dr Archana. So runners, put on some awesome music on your headphones, don your pair of shoes, go at it every day and you will see results very soon. And remember, without proper rest and recovery periods, you can end up in real pain, so make sure you don’t push yourself too hard and do it all too quick.

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Radhika Meganathan

Radhika Meganathan

Radhika Meganathan is a published author who is an advocate for healthy living, she practices sugar-free intermittent fasting, all-terrain rambling and weight training.