Exercise Guidelines


Learn about exercise guidelines, the benefits of exercise, and physical activity suggestions for obese and morbidly obese people including duration, frequency & intensity of physical activity.

Learn about exercise guidelines and tips for obese people who are beginning an exercise program.

Exercise Guidelines for Obese Adults


In order to responsibly plan daily physical activity you should, at the very least, take the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q), and use our calculators (in the title section) to determine estimates of your current physical fitness. The exercise guidelines for adults, including obese adults, outline brisk regular physical activity for at least 2 1/2 hours a week. Equally divided, 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise per exercise session for 5 out of 7 days a week that includes a schedule of cardiovascular exercise and strength training exercise has proven to help obese people, as well as people of average weight, lose excess bodyweight and body fat as well as improve cardiovascular strength and endurance, muscular strength and endurance, improve balance and flexibility, and boost energy. Exercise prescription varies depending on the nature of your specific needs and abilities. Researchers at the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) found that 45 minutes of exercise 3 times per week along with a reduced calorie deficit (600 calories per day) produced favorable results in bodyweight and body fat loss in obese patients[1]. While the duration is similar to the recommendations outlined by the American College of Sports Medicine of 150 – 250 minutes of exercise weekly, it is important to note that the guidelines of most researchers include a strategy for creating a safe excess calorie deficit along with regular exercise to produce the best results. It is essential to focus on increasing the duration of your exercise sessions first, then move toward increasing intensity[2]. Exercise guidelines, in general, are very similar for all people. Researchers and exercise professionals find that the benefits of exercise for most people far outweigh the risks of not exercising. If you have a chronic medical condition it is wise to consult with your doctor before beginning a new exercise or physical activity program.

If you are obese, exercise durations as suggested above may be difficult for you to accomplish. Obese and morbidly obese people may have a very difficult time performing the types of exercise suggested. If you have physical limitations that make you immobile or you find it too difficult to stand, walk, or leave your bed, there are several things you can do to increase your functional mobility beginning with physical movements you can accomplish. Just because you cannot exercise 2 1/2 hours a week at this moment, that doesn’t mean that you cannot start with smaller exercise sessions that allow you to perform exercises that are not too difficult or ambitious for your current fitness level or limitations. For example, if you are confined to a bed but you are able to move your legs and/or your arms, then you might start your exercise routine with simple range of motion exercises that simply require you to move your limbs at joints within the fullest range of motion safely possible. You might be able to press your arms in the air, flexing and extending the elbow upward. In the lying position this movement will recruit the muscles that support and leverage your arms from the shoulder to the elbow. In this exercise, your chest, shoulders, biceps and triceps muscles are getting stimulated, contracting, stretching, and relaxing during phases of movement. If you haven’t exercises in a very long time you will find that this simple example of an upper body exercise will both increase your heart rate and recruit several muscles in your upper body, including your abdominal and core muscles (midsection) as your body stabilizes 8 to 12 repetitions per set. If you can move your legs or flex and extend your knee joint, or even your ankle joint, you may simply practice moving your joints by bending and straightening your knee, one at a time. This movement allows you to practice recruiting your leg muscles by contracting and lengthening quadriceps, hamstrings, core, and even lower leg muscles. You might find that you can start with as little as 10 minutes of exercise a day, work your way up to as many as 2 or 3 exercise sessions per day, and you will feel immediate relieve and benefits of exercise. As you become better able to move, you will burn more calories, lose more excess body fat, and, in time, work your way into more ambitious exercise as you become able.

If you are able to walk, we suggest that you walk within a comfortable pace to start and slowly increase the intensity, duration, and frequency of your daily walks. Begin by walking relatively short distances, monitor your heart rate, stay within your heart rate zone, and aim for at least 10 minutes of walking. Obviously if you are able to begin with walking exercise more days through the week than without walking exercise you will feel and see genuine fitness results. Your doctor may have very specific guidelines for you to follow, if so — follow them. An exercise professional, a group fitness instructor or personal trainer can help you discover ways to begin becoming more physically active. As you improve functional mobility and physical fitness your exercise program will change. It is important to exercise correctly and within the scope of your specific needs, limitations, and doctor’s suggestions. Beginning a safe, consistent, daily exercise program can help you to improve your quality of life and improve your health. If you are interested in more ambitious exercise programming or you would like to understand more about exercise guidelines that meet your specific needs, we want to hear from you.


1. “Obesity: the prevention, identification, assessment and management of overweight and obesity in adults and children.” NICE. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (UK), Dec. 2006. Web. 05 Nov. 2014.
2. S. Schmidt, M.S. “Obesity and Exercise” ACSM. American College of Sports Medicine, 19 Jan. 2012. Web. 05 Nov. 2014.


obesity was last modified: September 24th, 2017 by Derek Curtice