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How to Begin Exercising When You Are Really Out of Shape

Nancy is an everyday woman with a love for staying active, participating in sports, and outdoor activities.

Our Thoughts Influence Our Health and Fitness Success or Failure

Re-frame your thoughts about your fitness and weight loss goals.

Re-frame your thoughts about your fitness and weight loss goals.

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How to Begin an Exercise Program

You want to begin, but because you are very out of shape, it is difficult to know where to start. This is something I understand very well.

Before we get to the actual exercise, though, let's take a few minutes to think about the physical and emotional aspects of having gotten to this state of being in the first place. I have summed up my philosophy on losing weight and getting fit in the blue cloud at your right. Our thoughts are powerful things. For all of you who are chomping at the bit to get going, you can scroll down to find out how I began my exercise program. However, if you really want to succeed this time, I strongly suggest reading this article from top to bottom. It only takes a few minutes, and you just might find the key to success in your weight reducing and fitness goals.

If you are significantly over weight or out of shape, the first thing you want to do is forgive yourself. I know, because when I began my fitness and weight loss journey I was in a state of self-loathing. The more I focused on blaming myself for letting myself go, the more depressed I got about my weight, size, and fitness level. I had gone from a state of being very athletic and physically fit to being the shape of an orange with little hands and feet sticking out. I truly felt like I was a walking, talking fat-filled balloon.

Acknowledge the Problem, Forgive Yourself, and Move Forward

Change is possible.

Change is possible.

Weight Related Injuries and Depression

This section is short and sweet, but is of vital importance to those who are going to begin exercising after a long period of inactivity or who have become significantly overweight.

Weight Gain and Depression. Being very over weight limits our range of motion and prevents us from doing activities we love. We all know that. In addition, it can bring on what is known as reactive depression. This is a type of depression that results from a specific circumstance in our life. Many people who have gained a significant amount of weight are inundated by shame. How many of us have been reluctant to go out in public, wear a bathing suit, or even wear shorts in very hot weather because we are ashamed of the way we look? I know I was. I had gained so much weight that people sometimes did not even recognize me. Talk about embarrassment! I began to feel depression that stemmed from both my thoughts about myself as I looked in the mirror and the fact that I physically could no longer do the activities I enjoyed. I felt very Isolated and ashamed.

If this is where you are today, remember to acknowledge it, forgive yourself, and make up your mind to create change. Doing this may help to reduce the amount of shame and depression associated with the weight gain because it gives you something new to focus your thoughts on.

Weight Related Injuries.Injuries caused by carrying around significant extra weight are very common. In my own particular case I first noticed it after I had gained about 40 pounds when I began to experience more pain in my feet and in my spine. The extra weight was so hard to carry around every day that my physical activity dropped dramatically. This caused my muscles to weaken, and then I began experiencing pain in my joints when I would try to move heavy objects or even bend and twist. I believe this was because my joints took the impact of the strain because my muscles had become too weak to support the physical exertion.

This can create a vicious cycle that becomes a downward spiral. The only way I found that I could change this was to begin very cautiously. Which brings us to the next point, which is finding out what your starting point will be.

Injuries Can be Related to Weight Gain

Injuries can cause a downward spiral in fitness level and and upward trend in weight gain.

Injuries can cause a downward spiral in fitness level and and upward trend in weight gain.

Find Your Starting Point

You are where you are. Forcing it could result in injury that will derail your progress.

You are where you are. Forcing it could result in injury that will derail your progress.

Assessing Your Physical Self

It is so much easier to take an accurate assessment of where you are today after you forgive yourself. In my journey, I had trouble acknowledging where I was at that point in time because I kept bashing myself for not being able to leap tall buildings and climb mountains. I had once been fit enough that I swam a channel on the Columbia river where it joins with the Snake river sans life jacket! (Stupid, yes. Please don't try something like that!) And I did it just for fun one day. So you can see how mortified I was about being more than a hundred pounds over weight.

Acknowledging where you are at this point in time is very important. If a person neglects this step it could cause burnout and worsen the cycle you are on. Depression and self-blame could set in again and before long you may find that you are in worse shape than you were to begin with.

So, how to you do this assessment? How do you start your exercise program? In my case, the answers to both questions were the same. I had to test myself at a very low level to find my starting point and to begin to increase my fitness level. Without further waiting, we are finally at the beginning of a journey to fitness.

**Remember to consult your doctor or a fitness expert before embarking on an exercise routing to make sure you are healthy enough to do this.

Continuous Motion is A Great Place to Begin

Keep moving until you feel you must rest. Write down how many minutes you were able to keep moving.

Keep moving until you feel you must rest. Write down how many minutes you were able to keep moving.

Fitness and Weight Loss Goals

Beginning a gentle exercise program will help you to reduce your weight and strengthen your muscles.

Beginning a gentle exercise program will help you to reduce your weight and strengthen your muscles.

Continuous Motion: The First Step to Beginning an Exercise Program

This is where it gets fun and interesting! Your first day of exercising and your initial evaluation of your starting point will be the same, so you can check off both items and feel great about doing it.

How to begin. Set your oven timer for 30 minutes and begin moving around your house. You can do any activity you like, but you have to be standing up and moving your body. To find your starting point you will continue moving until you feel that you truly need a break.

Write it down on your calendar. When I did this I made it only 12 minutes! I folded some clothes and cleaned the kitchen counters. And then I had to sit down because my back and shoulder muscles were all cramped up and my feet hurt. Some of you may find that your stopping point is either less or more. If you can move non-stop for the entire 30 minutes, pat yourself on the back and ask yourself if you could have gone longer. If you were still feeling fresh after 30 minutes, do it again the next day, but choose more strenuous activities like mowing the lawn, or doing some heavier tasks. If you can do an hour of fairly intense continual motion, you are most likely not seriously out of shape and you can most likely move on to a more advance workout program or join into sports programs without too much trouble at all.

How to progress from your starting point. Most people who are seriously out of shape and over weight will benefit from daily continuous motion. Keep doing this every day, and writing down how many minutes you were able to move continuously. If you are like me, you will be elated to find that you are making fast progress. If your feet can stand it, begin going for walks each day. Then add some easy muscle-toning exercises. You can check below for ideas. To begin with, it is a good idea to focus on building core muscles and the muscles in your neck and shoulders. These are the muscles that hold your spine in proper position and when they are very weak, other exercises could cause injury. Remember to enjoy the progress you are making and to keep taking things one step at a time. When you have worked up to doing an hour of continuous motion using many of the muscles in your body you are ready to go up a level in your exercise and fitness routine.

Did you find this article helpful?

© 2014 Nancy Owens


Nancy Owens (author) from USA on May 06, 2019:

Hi Darleen! Sorry for the lengthy response time on this reply. Love your comment, especially the thought that exercise can be thought of as cumulative. Thank you for taking the time to write.

Darleen Barnard from Henderson, NV on February 16, 2019:

Thanks for sharing!! Consistency is key and I love your suggestion to start small. Exercise is cumulative and it all adds up!

Nancy Owens (author) from USA on December 06, 2017:

Me, too! I love going for walks, and have started back... slowly. Most of my life I've had a tendency to just go for it, and then overdo. Now I'm learning to listen to my body for those subtle signals that tell me to quit before I hurt myself. For me it seems to be all about finding balance and consistency.

Thank you for stopping by... Sorry for taking so long to reply.

Bev G from Wales, UK on November 10, 2017:

Sorry to read of your troubles, Nancy.

My thing is walking. If I don't walk an hour a day, I feel horrible. It is like a sort of physical and mental re-set for me. I can't imagine how awful it must be to have to stay off your feet for so long. Glad you are on the mend now.

RTalloni on October 27, 2017:

Sorry you've had such a long haul! Focusing on recovery and what has helped could be useful for writing hubs. I'm thankful that I am not immobilized. It's important not to let the injury stop me from doing more than I feel like doing, but also important to be careful not to worsen the injury or injure something else trying not to lose ground during the healing process. Balance, right?! Thanks for being an encouragement to others.

Nancy Owens (author) from USA on October 27, 2017:

Good morning (here where I am)! Thank you for your kind words. I apologize for taking so long to reply, but I wanted to wait until I had time to give your comment the attention it deserves.

Injuries that seriously diminish movement can be very difficult to recover from in full. I don't know your circumstances, but I was basically disabled for a period of about 3 years. And it all started with an injury to my left foot, which turned out to have been misdiagnosed.

During that 18 month process, my body became very weak because I simply could not move my body well enough to do even simple daily activities. I kept re-injuring my foot over and over again.

My spinal alignment went kaput, and I started having shooting pains on top of all the other pain. I believe what happened was that my muscle strength became so unbalanced side to side that it literally pulled my vertebra out out of place.

Then, when my neighbor (an imaging tech at the local hospital) finally figured out what the problem with my foot was, I had to completely stay off it for 21 days. It began to heal and I was able to put my foot down flat on the floor again, but alas, the saga is not over.

I found that the tiny bones and joints in my instep had shifted and become sort of warped. Out of place. Placing my foot flat on the floor began to snap my instep back into place, which was pretty painful for about three months.

After that got over, I thought I could just resume normal activities, and I did, only to have a series of injuries that ranged from fracturing three ribs, damaging my rotator cuff, and tearing loos a bunch of scar tissue from my spine.

I believe that all of these injuries were in some way caused by trying to do things that I had simply become too weak to do.

The spinal injury took over a year to heal up. It was just this spring that i was able to finally get back to doing normal tasks like laundry, vacuuming, and caring for my home and yard without ending up with a serious injury. That is how weak I had become.

If you are in a situation in which you cannot move very much, I think isometric exercises are a good bet. And finding ways to stretch and contract your major muscles so that they do not become unbalanced and put your back out of place.

Hope this helps. I'm thinking maybe I could write an article or two to share what I learned about getting myself put back together.

RTalloni on October 25, 2017:

Thanks for the positive motivation to keep moving. This was a good read for me today, helping me realize that I will lose strength I've gained and put on weight if I do not focus on staying with exercise. It's such a temptation to let a recent injury make me give in to a fall/winter lull and wait for spring. Thanks for the reminder that it would be a bad decision!

NerdFaerie from Tacoma, Washington on December 09, 2014:

I can only stand or move around for 2 or 3 minutes because my lower back starts screaming in pain. A combination of weight and a lower back injury that still causes pain. I'm not sure the injury-related pain will ever go away, so it becomes depressing to realize I may never be able to get in better shape.

Nancy Owens (author) from USA on March 29, 2014:

I agree that persistence can be very difficult for most people. Sometimes, however, people feel completely overwhelmed when they realize just how overweight and out of shape they have become, and it was for those people that I tried to share some hope, strength, and experience. I am glad that you are someone who has met with success, and that you found what worked for you. Each of us is unique, and keeping track of workout stats can be very motivating once a person has become strong enough and physically able to do the moves. Great point and thank you for sharing what works for you!

Tolovaj on March 28, 2014:

Starting is not a problem, the problem is persistence. Some kind of motivation can be very helpful and I found keeping a log about all kinds of progress (speed, strength, duration, number of repetitions etc.) works pretty well in my case.

Nancy Owens (author) from USA on March 26, 2014:

You are so kind, BillyBuc. Good for you for staying active and challenging your body to stay in shape. On television I see so much hype now about pushing your body to the extreme. However, I once read a book about how muscles respond when we are exercising. For the life of me I cannot remember the name or the author. However, it talked about the fact that if we push too hard, it actually takes longer to rebuild the muscle tissue and endurance than if one takes a more moderate approach.

I experimented on myself and in my case it turned out to be true. My muscles and endurance level seemed to increase more quickly when I did not over exercise.

Nancy Owens (author) from USA on March 26, 2014:

Hi Flourish! Once again, thank you for reading my work. Not everyone can afford to, or take the time out of their busy lives to go on a television show where doctors and trainers help them to get in shape without injuring themselves. Finding one's starting point is so crucial to long-term success. I have personally injured myself several times and when I did, it really set my progress back. And being significantly overweight is such an emotionally charged issue for many people. Accepting and forgiving yourself can make the long haul much easier, and make the whole experience much more positive.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 25, 2014:

Good information Nancy! I'm not grossly out of shape. I ran up until November when the weather turned horrible and then stopped. I need to get back into it, slowly at first, and then increase.

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 24, 2014:

I like the supportive tone and your use of personal experience to encourage others here. You gotta start somewhere when it comes to exercise. Nicely done!

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