How to Make & Stick to a Workout Routine when Living with Obesity

Making a workout routine is often easy, but sticking to one can be a challenge. Read our tips on the best workout routines for people living with obesity.
Published on: November 28, 2022
Updated on: July 3, 2024

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Many people have good intentions when they start a workout routine, but for a variety of reasons it can be difficult to stick with a routine. In this article, we will discuss how to implement / create a workout routine that you can stick to.

How Much Exercise Do You Need?

Regular physical activity is one of the most important things people can do to improve their health. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends including a combination of aerobic activity and strength training. For substantial health benefits, adults should aim for either 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking), 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (such as running) per week, or a combination of both. If you are looking to lose excess weight or maintain weight loss, 300 minutes per week of aerobic exercise is recommended. Movement is important and can be beneficial to your health even if you start small. 

Strength training is another important exercise to incorporate in your routine. Aim to do muscle-strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups on two or more days a week. Each set of exercises should consist of 12-15 repetitions using weight or resistance to help work the muscle. 

The general goal is to move your body for at least 30 minutes per day. While this is a great goal to have, not everyone may have a 30 minute chunk in their day to dedicate to exercise. Breaking up time spent exercising into smaller chunks may help make it more fitting to your schedule and give you the flexibility to try different activities. Try the 10 x 10 x 10 rule, which is taking three 10 minute breaks each day to get in some movement.

How to Make a Workout Routine when Living with Obesity

When creating your own workout plan, keep it mind that you want this routine to be specific to you. You know yourself best, so choose exercises that make you feel good. In this section, we will discuss exercise ideas that are best suited for those who may be just starting out or have specific health concerns related to excess weight. These exercises are intended to be both low impact and enjoyable, to encourage you to create a routine that works for you. By starting with these exercises, you will begin to build strength, flexibility, and stamina that will allow for you to perform more vigorous activities later on. 

At first, the goal should be consistency, not duration or intensity. This process is about building a new healthy habit for yourself, and habits take time to become a regular part of your routine. By starting small, you are still being physically active while also mentally adjusting to this new activity in your schedule. It is important that you check in with yourself during this process. If you feel any chest pain, nausea, or physical discomfort during the exercise, you should stop and consult your doctor.


Walking is an easy exercise that you can implement into your day to day routine, inside or outside. This exercise can be social as well, such as walking with a friend or strolling around a park. According to Harvard Health, walking can reduce the effects of weight-promoting genes, curb sweet cravings, and ease joint pain. Incorporating walking into your routine is as simple as making small changes throughout your day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park farther away from shops, work, or school to walk from your car, or take walking breaks at work instead of sitting in the break room.

Aqua Jogging

Aqua jogging is a cross between running and swimming, working your endurance without the negative effects of road running. This exercise is low impact, builds strength, helps with weight loss, and does not require running at a fast pace. Water provides 12 times the resistance of air, so you are burning calories and increasing muscle strength by working against it. To get started all you’ll need is a swimsuit that you feel comfortable in, swim goggles, and a swim cap. You can find aqua jogging classes at your local gym, or even start on your own by following a basic routine.


Swimming is a great workout for those with excess weight that struggle with mobility, restricting them from other exercises such as walking or running. This activity provides a total body workout because swimming works your upper body and lower body at the same time. Because swimming is low impact and non-weight bearing, you are able to achieve more exercise with less pain. The resistance of water decreases the weight pulling and pushing your joints by 80-90%. It is important to warm up for at least five minutes before swimming. You can start slow, practicing water aerobics, interval training, or just swimming laps.


Dancing is a sure way to boost your mood, enjoy yourself, and get in a workout that feels fun. Some benefits of dancing regularly include increased stamina, improved sense of balance, mobility and flexibility, reduced stress, and lowering the chances of conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. It is important when dancing to take proper safety precautions such as drinking water and warming up before you start. This will prevent any injuries while you exercise.There are many types of dance to choose from such as zumba, hip-hop, ballet, or ballroom dancing. You can choose to follow a dance video online or go to a class at your local gym or community center.

Yoga and Mind-Body Exercises

Yoga may seem intimidating at first, but yoga benefits all people no matter your weight or flexibility. There are many physical and mental benefits of yoga, such as increased balance and flexibility, better mind-body connection, and boosted confidence. The best way to get started with yoga is to take a beginner course with an informed instructor that can help give you tips on posture and movement to ensure you are doing the exercises correctly. This can be done in a group class or through private yoga lessons, depending on what you feel comfortable with. Once you feel comfortable, you may also do yoga classes at home following free online videos, or even join online yoga communities.

Group Classes

Group classes are a great way to exercise when you don’t feel motivated, or need more direction in developing a workout routine. This is a way of surrounding yourself with like minded people, or even friends, that you can workout and enjoy spending time with. Group classes are also helpful because there is an instructor there to guide you every step of the way, giving you exercises to do and instructing you on how to do them properly. You may find a class you enjoy and keep it in your schedule each week to be consistent in your workout. Overall, group classes are a great way to increase physical activity in an encouraging environment.

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How to Stick to a Workout Routine when Living with Obesity

Choosing an exercise is often not the problem, but sticking to one and making physical activity a habit is what people tend to struggle with the most. The following tips will give a better sense of how to stick to a workout routine and keep yourself motivated throughout the process.

Creating Healthy Habits is a Process

Developing lifelong healthy habits takes time and consistency. The use of quick fixes and diets will only lead to yo-yo dieting, worsening the vicious cycle of frustration and overeating. It may seem intimidating at the start, but setting a plan and goals for yourself along the way will make it much more manageable to maintain. There are four stages of changing health behavior: contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. It is helpful for you to identify which of these stages you are in currently, and what actions you can take to move to the next.

Find Your “Why”

It is important that you set your goals and intentions to stick to a workout plan. The best results come from having both internal and external motivation. Gaining the validation of others should not be the goal — instead you should focus on feeling good about yourself. Reframing it this way takes away the negative pressures you and others may put on yourself, and encourages you to seek enjoyment from the exercises you are doing. The best way to do this is by creating a list of reasons why you want to work out that don’t focus solely on weight loss.This could include things like having an enjoyable physical activity, clearing the mind after a whole day of sitting at a desk, or maybe the sense of achievement. Having this list will get you brainstorming positive intentions and give you something to remind yourself why you want to stick to this workout plan you’ve created when it gets hard.

Reframe the Negatives

Sticking to a workout routine may not be a smooth journey, and when obstacles come your way it is important that you have the tools to reframe these negative situations or thoughts. Some common difficulties you may encounter are gym insecurity, negative self talk, or not feeling that you have the time to exercise. If you are nervous to go to the gym, know that there are other ways to workout that don’t require a gym environment. You may choose another activity to start with such as walking or doing a workout video at home, or hire a coach that you are able to meet with one on one. Negative self talk can impact us in many situations that feel uncomfortable or unfamiliar, but there are ways to reframe these thoughts in a way that will diminish their negative impact. Reframing negative thoughts is a proven counseling technique that requires three steps. First, acknowledge the thought that you have and how it is affecting you. Second, evaluate the evidence and what the situation actually is without your feelings involved. Lastly, be compassionate to yourself and give yourself space to work away from this negative thought. Not feeling like you have time to exercise? Try time blocking. Create shorter spaces in your schedule where you can get 10-15 minutes of physical activity in. This will give you a dedicated time period to workout and make your schedule more manageable.

Start Small

Starting is often the hardest part, not because of the difficulty of the task, but rather the mental resistance we feel. Habits take time to develop, and by starting small you can mentally train yourself to continue onto bigger things. Maybe 30 minutes of physical activity is a lot at first, so start with 10. Then increase by 5 minutes more each day or each week until you reach the full 30 minutes. Remember, any physical activity is better than none at all. Sticking to a workout routine can be hard, but try to celebrate small wins along the way. Acknowledging victories such as completing your first 30 minute workout, reaching 10,000 steps, or noticing your change in energy all help to remind you that these things can be accomplished. You deserve to feel proud of yourself!

Do Something Enjoyable

We’re often most motivated to do the things we naturally enjoy because of the action itself. By choosing an exercise activity that you enjoy, it will become something you look forward to rather than something you have to do. If you are doing an exercise only because you want to lose weight, it will quickly become a chore that you are more likely to quit. Choosing an activity that you enjoy helps create a more rewarding feeling overall. Whether it’s swimming with friends, dancing to your favorite song, or walking while listening to a podcast you love, you will still be getting in your physical activity but enjoy the process of doing so and maybe even look forward to it next time!

Aim for Consistency

As we discussed briefly, it is better to start small and exercise consistently than to do too much all at once. From there you may gradually increase the intensity or frequency of your workouts. By doing this, you can better prevent burnout or even hurting yourself by trying to start with too much. It is important that you continuously assess yourself and how your body is feeling before you move forward, being sure that you feel physically and mentally prepared for the next step. It’s also important to leave time for recovery when you are just starting out, so that your muscles and joints are less likely to become injured by overworking them.

Consider Your Eating Habits

Healthy weight loss cannot be achieved through exercise alone. Developing good eating habits is a crucial step on a weight loss journey and should be done in conjunction with developing a workout routine. Eating right provides the fuel that you need to complete a successful workout.

How FORM Can Help You Reach your Weight Loss Goals

Developing a workout routine is an integral part of a successful weight loss plan. Exercise works best in conjunctions with changes in nutrition and weight loss medication when deemed appropriate. If you’re sticking to a good workout routine but still aren’t losing on the scale, don’t fret just yet: there are factors that make it hard to see weight loss progress. Consider your diet, muscle mass, and water weight as factors. Schedule an appointment with a doctor or dietitian to discuss potential factors further.

Consult our care team at FORM to begin your personalized weight loss journey today. To get started with FORM, schedule a call or send a message and we will be happy to help you.

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