Help a seriously overweight guy come up with an effective excercise routine?

Effective: lose weight, increase endurance, reduce cholesterol and BP, build cardiovascular health, reduce risk factors for chronic diseases like diabetes.

I’ve recently – just in the past week or so – started walking for exercise. I have a couple of routes that I do, the longest is (depending on whether I believe Google Earth or my car’s odometer) 6.4 – 6.6 miles long and the shortest is about 2.25. I’ve mixed these a couple of times, depending on the time of day and how much other stuff I have going on. I try to do the minimum 2.25 every day. Usually I walk farther than that

A lot of the info I’m gleaning from the web claims that walking isn’t the greatest exercise and many fitness buffs come down foursquare on the claim that walking is pretty pointless for… well, anything. The net is rife with claims that walking won’t cause much weight loss, isn’t all that beneficial to cardiovascular health, etc. I’ve been told by my Dr. to lose weight, but he didn’t specify any specific routines or limitations.

For what it’s worth, I’m 6’2 and, depending on what scale I’m using, between 340 and 355 lbs. My 6.5 mile walks take an hour and 45 mins, and the 2.25 mile walks take <30 minutes. The online “calories burned with exercise” charts are all over the place, so I have no idea how many calories I burn walking.

I’m trying to come up with other things / activities I can do to improve my health in addition to the walking. I started some new eating patterns a couple weeks ago, trying to eat whole foods, lots of veggies, cut out sweets and limit calories to 1800 – 2200 qd. I’ve been moderately successful, but with the holidays coming up (and stocking up on things like Coca-Cola and cookies for visits from family), it’s not easy. But I’m happy I am making progress on both fronts – diet and exercise.

I’m constantly sore as hell and my feet are absolutely killing me, but I’m determined to work through the pain and adopt a healthier, more active lifestyle. I’m looking to Dopers for ideas for different activities and exercises I can incorporate into my day to aid the walking. Between school and work I have a pretty typical 8-5 day booked, so whatever I do It’ll be limited to early mornings or evenings.

All ideas are welcome.

A short (15min) daily resistance program looks to raise your metabolism for days.

link to pubmed research

What shoes are you wearing?
At your weight, walking is fine. You need to build up the muscles and tendons (and lose some weight) before you even think of any sort of high impact work.

Can you go to a gym and use some of the aerobic equipment there? You may need to do some none weight bearing work for a while. Or at least a mix.
What about a pool? Not only can you swim but deep water running gives a terrific workout.

My first rule of thumb for people getting out of bad shape is: never startle your body; it has very few ways to react, and they’re generally pretty unpleasant. Cutting down drastically on anything in your diet can be kind of startling, as can a drastic increase in exercise.

If you’ve not been walking a lot, then walking a lot is probably the right amount and type of exercise for you to get started, particularly if you’re still sore after doing it. Once you get to the point where walking for an hour isn’t wiping the floor with you, you can look to add something more stressful, but your goal early on is mostly to not hurt yourself so you can’t exercise.

For the longer term, I’d suggest looking into the Mediterranean diet as it seems to offer a lot of choices which are similar to what most people have in their diets, and it encourages a change in attitude about food and cooking, rather than giving you a list of recipes and exchanges.

Concur that if walking for an hour is still leaving you sore and tired, then ramping it up even more might not be a good idea. Are you walking 7 days a week? If so, keep in mind that your muscles, tendons etc. need time to heal and regenerate and you need to take that into account.

Further concur that you need to take care that you’re wearing well-made, properly fitting and supportive shoes.

That said, it sounds like you have a pretty good attitude about it all, you’re making an effort to eat “real” foods (you know what I mean … ) and in general you seem to be setting yourself up for success. Good job, and good luck!

Exercise is great, and IMO an essential part in changing your lifestyle to be more fit and healthy. But exercise isn’t really a great weight loss tool. Changes in eating habits are much more effective for losing weight in the short and long term. Have you considered Weight Watchers or other support groups for weight loss? I found them very helpful in focusing my approach to food and learning techniques that made long term significant weight loss possible for me. We think we know about eating healthy but the reality is a lot of us don’t know as much as we thought. There are also great techniques for surviving the holidays, eating out, emotional eating, etc.

When you combine that with a sensible exercise program I think you’ll see the best results. You seem to be getting some good cardio, I agree that it would be best to combine it with some lifting as well.

I also agree with the recommendation to get fitted for good supporting shoes for walking, possibly invest in some good insoles as well.

Walking is good, especially for the overweight. If those “be at the gym in 26 minutes” assholes had to do it carrying 150+ pounds of weights (ie, your extra mass), they’d probably be crowing about how it’s better than any stress exercises they could possibly come up with.

You might want to get a pedometer. Of, if you have a smartphone, just download a free pedometer app. That way you get to see your “step count” each day. I find it is a great motivator, and makes the walk more like a game and a personal challenge than merely a chore.

As for dieting, I have had good results eliminating one bad habit at a time. Like “starting this month, I’ll switch to diet soda.” Then the next month, you add in a new change, like eating a salad every other day for lunch instead of a burger. Gradual stuff like that.

Good luck!

I am going to reinforce some of what has already been stated - get a good pair of running/walking shoes, eat right, keep walking, and maybe push around some weights at the gym or do some swimming. All of that will keep your metabolism going, and if you eat healthy and drink water (instead of soft drinks), you may lose some weight. At the very least you will feel a lot better. When you are up for something more intense, you can try that - but not now.

If you are already walking 6+ miles, you are well off the couch.

I just also wanted to say I think you have a great attitude about this and I am confident you will be successful!

Exercise is good, obviously. But if you’re “seriously overweight,” getting a handle on your diet is even more important.

May I recommend some light stretching after the walk? I’m a walker myself and I’ve found just a couple of minutes of stretching the legs after a walk keeps the knees and hips from getting sore. There’s lots of exercises on the internet, pick a couple and try them. If you don’t like them, try some more.

Also, I’ve done backwards walking a few times up hill. Aside from the fact my neighbors stop and ask me if I’m okay, it makes a fun challenge. There was an article in the NYT about it.

Re: shoes. I have big feet: size 13, usually 3 or 4 E. I also have very high insteps, so finding shoes that fit is very difficult. I wear these hiking boots whwn walking:

They aren’t the most comfortable things in the world but they fit, and that’s quite important. I do use Dr. Scholl’s inserts, which help a lot.

I’ve tried to use WW and other support groups like TOPS in the past, and was always dissapointed in the attitudes I found there. I came away with the impression that most people have no desire to make true lifestyle changes, and instead want to lose weight and get in shape while continuing to scarf Dr. Pepper and Cheez-its all day. “Wow! If I drink only one Dr Pepper and have two handfuls of Cheez-its instead of half the box, I’ll still be able to have a beer and a basket of rings when I watch the game tonight!” That “make no significant changes and still expect results” thought process made me realize I had to do this more or less on my own - sink or swim.

I’ve actually tried the “little bit at a time, adding changes slowly” thing before, and it never worked for me. My problem was I would feel awesome that I had All-Bran for breakfast and a green salad for lunch, and feel justified in drinking a Coke afterwards. I feel that if don’t cut that stuff out of my diet completely, I’ll end up living on junk again. The eating part of this whole thing is actually easiest. I live in southwest Oregon where it rains * all the fucking time for 7 months straight *. Getting outside and walking along the highway… in the dark… in the rain… not fun. But I am persevering.

I’ll be joining a gym in January. Part of my winter term school benefits. Hopefully I’ll have built up some endurance by then.

If they’re not comfortable, chuck 'em. Shoes should vanish when you put them on.
Try New Balance, they have extra wide to super extra wide shoes.

I’m curious about this bit. I’ve always heard that, for strength training a days rest between working the same muscle groups to allow them to rest, heal and grow is needed. But, does the same hold true for cardio (which, I assume walking is)?

And yes, I’m walking, or attempting to, daily. Haven’t missed a day so far, but I haven’t been doing it for more than a week or so.

I think this is an area where I have a lot of insight. I was extremely fit for most of my life, I was career Army and was very big on weight lifting and running while I was in the Army but developed bad eating habits and got to be obese within five years of retirement. I then completely blew up my eating habits, and researched new information on nutrition and how to make myself lose weight with healthy eating. I combined that with a lifetime of exercise knowledge and worked myself back into good shape and a healthy weight, and have stayed there ever since.

I won’t get into all the weight loss aspects since that isn’t what you’re asking about. But generally my biggest single advice to anyone seriously out of shape just starting up is:

Do aerobic and resistance training. So many people that are just getting into fitness think that lifting weights is just for meatheads trying to develop six packs. Nothing could be further from the truth. Strength helps in so many ways. It reduces your chance of injury, as you age, the more muscle you have is associated with avoiding catastrophic “injuries of aging”, there is some research showing resistance training can help with blood pressure.

Some general aerobic guidelines:

Make sure the aerobic exercise you do is causing your heart rate to be significantly increased. The rule of thumb is take 220 and subtract your age from it. If you were 30 years old, that would give you 190. That is your “maximum heart rate”, then take 80% of that and you end up with 152. That’s a good general “target heart rate” that you should be at or near during exercise. I do not like to over rely on that old formula, though. So the next time you’re home and have been sitting for a half hour or so measure your heart rate. You do not necessarily need fancy equipment, you can just take your pulse for 10 seconds, multiply the number of heartbeats by six and that’s your resting heart rate. Next time you’re out walking, stop in roughly the middle of your walk and measure your heart rate. If it’s only say, 20 bpm higher than resting, you aren’t working yourself hard enough. If your resting is like 80 and your mid-exercise is like 130-150 then you’re getting decent exercise.

Even without that, make sure your walk makes you feel like you’re working. You should feel that your heart is beating faster, breathing should be a little more difficult. If you feel you could easily hold a casual conversation while doing your aerobic exercise, you need to work more intensely.

How much aerobic you want is up to you, but I believe 20-30 minutes a day is all that is necessary. If you enjoy doing more, do more.

If you are feeling lingering pain/soreness from your aerobic exercise, especially around joints and such, you may want to do something else. Swimming and the elliptical machine are both good at avoiding impact.

Weight bearing cardio, yes. You can still walk every day but make sure you have a short day before and after your longest walk.

If you continue to be sore after another two to three weeks, you’ll need to substitute a non-weight bearing cardio exercise two or three days a week.

I’ve lost 13 lbs in the last 3 months or so. The only exercise I do is walk. Now I live in the mountains, so I have quite a few hills, but I don’t walk nearly as fast as you do either.

I think walking is the perfect exercise.

I used an app called My Fitness Pal. It was free and it helped me track all of the nutrition of every thing I ate. I was religious about recording everything for the first couple of months. Now I just sort of wing it, but I have a lot memorized now.

I eat a lot of sweets because I love them, so I gave up starchy foods. My dinner is usually just some fish, chicken or steak with a big pile of fresh vegetables. Then dessert.

This is the second time in my life that I’ve had to lose some weight. I fell in to a bit of a funk earlier this year and consoled myself with way too many chocolate kisses and I gained about 15 pounds in a couple of months. I used Jenny Craig the first time I lost and that was very helpful, but a little costly.

Now I maintain my weight by eating 1200 calories a day Monday through Friday, but Saturday and Sunday, I pretty much eat anything I want. I typically gain 3 lbs on the weekend and lose it through out the week.

That’s worked for me for years. Good Luck Lancia. Nothing tastes as good as being fit feels.

At about 6’2" and a half I am almost exactly your height and I also have your exact 13 E shoe size and width and a high instep. I also walk for exercise. So as your physical doppleganger I’ll offer you some advice.

At one point a year an half agoI was not too far away from where you are. Forget the naysayers walking is the very best exercise if you are significantly overweight. I walked about 2-4 miles in my routes. I walked about 3 times week not every day because at that weight range your feet need a day or two to to recover. As you lose weight this will become a non-issue. For now make your walks every other day. At your weight a day for your feet to recover is critical. Stop walking every day.

Regarding shoe size I wear a 13E dress shoe but I went up to 14 E New Balance walking shoe because it allows room for your foot to swell substantially and if you are packing over 300 lbs your feet will swell. Even at a relatively svelte 255 currently (goal 230) I still wear the 14E’s for comfort. Do NOT use cheap cotton athletic Walmart style socks (ie the 12 in a bag kind) get some decent high performance athletic socks that will hold their shape and wick moisture. These are not cheap but they are critical for walking.

I count calories and keep my daily intake at 2300-2400 a day this allows about a lb week loss based on my somewhat slow metabolism. Good luck with the 1800-2100 calories a day but I could not sustain (behaviorally) that little intake for more than a week or two. The key is to keep your intake at sustainable levels. Starving is the quickest way to destroy a diet. I’ve mostly given up all fast food and cut down on social alcohol intake to maybe a light beer or two then moving to water at parties and functions. It means more shopping (and more expensive shopping) but I get fresh meats and veggies and packaged tuna etc. The biggest change is move from high carb to high protein ratios. I eat much better now than I did when I was in your weight range. If I eat fast food or “party” food now the sodium and fat tastes are just overwhelming.

My last suggestion is to get a personal trainer. It took me literally years to get over myself and take the plunge. He works me like a rented mule 3 times week for an hour at a time and it’s about 26.00 a session. Overall it's about 4,000 a year but it’s a lot cheaper than a cardiac bypass or dealing with diabetes etc. I’m almost your exact size and I started very close to your weight about 1.5 years ago. I’ve slapped on a lot of muscle and dropped a lot of fat, and I currently look pretty good even though I still have close to 25-30 lbs to lose. My stomach is flat and a lot of weight is in my tree trunk legs. The reason the PT is critical for me is that I don’t have to be motivated or happy or “up” to go workout. It’s an enforced appointment. I just have to show up and do the work I’m instructed to do. Maybe you can push yourself to the gym regularly just on willpower, but getting a PT was HUGE for me in moving forward.

Don’t sweat the minutiae of exercising right now. You don’t need to up your game or speed anything along or buy books or whatever.

I’ll back up the “keep walking” sentiment and also do strength training. Also comfy shoes (New Balance is great, I’ve also bought Propet brand shoes but not for working out).

Do something every day and do it for a long time. Up your intensity when you are able. Do it for months, a year. Then you can start tweaking.

A personal trainer is not a bad idea. I wouldn’t say shell out for an everyday guy, but at least meet with someone to give you a weight routine then stick with it and come back in 6 months to get it changed up.

The biggest thing to remember is that you probably are not going to drop weight from exercising alone, or at all. Gotta keep it up in the kitchen. But the exercise will give you a million other benefits and you will feel awesome and it will definitely be a catalyst for the big weight loss.

Another good thing about a personal trainer is that they will guide you in ways that are most effective for your goals. They will tell you what to do and how to do it. Find one that is experienced in helping people lose a lot of weight. Most gyms offer personal training. Find a gym that caters to normal people (e.g. 24 Hour Fitness, Planet Fitness, etc) and the trainers will have the experience you need.

If you do join a gym, spin classes would be a good way to exercise. In a spin class, you ride a stationary bike led by an instructor. The bike supports your weight and you control the tension. It’s great for beginners since there’s no impact and the intensity is up to each individual. Also try some of the other low-impact classes like Zumba (easy latin dance). Just start slow until your body has had time to adjust.

I’m concerned about the distance you’re walking. It’s great to be going that far, but you don’t want to do too much too fast. Your joints, tendons and ligaments need a while to strengthen up. If you do too much, you risk injury. I would recommend doing less initially and build up. I’m really impressed you can do over 6 miles–that’s a 10k! If you can do that in your first week, I wouldn’t be surprised if you eventually run a marathon or something.