Exercise And Obesity in Seniors and The Elderly

In America today concerning exercise and obesity, about half of the population is overweight and about a quarter of the population is obese.

exercise and obesity
Obesity is associated with many conditions that are harmful including;

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Some types of cancer
  • Arthritis
  • Joint problems

Primarily obesity is a result of an imbalance between our energy intake and our energy output. We generally take in too many calories, and burn too few. For some people, this is the simple and only answer to their dilemma.  All they need to do is adjust how much they are taking in, to the amount of activity they perform during the day. For most people though, in addition to just calorie counting, losing or maintaining a good weight involves other factors including genetics, physiology, culture, and psychological disposition.

Some use dieting alone as a means of weight reduction. Unfortunately the success rate for using diet alone is not very good. This means that in the long term, weight that was lost through dietary restrictions is often regained plus some.

exercise and obesity

Why you also need to exercise in addition to dieting

Along with a sensible diet, strength training and endurance training of moderate intensity can result in burning a significant number of calories over time.

Strength is an excellent way to increase your lean muscle mass while helping to decrease fat mass.

A successful program for exercise and obesity, including strength and endurance training, should be designed around a low-intensity workout which would have a low risk for orthopedic injury.





Walking and other low-impact activities are a great start. These can include swimming, rowing and bicycle riding which have a low risk of musculoskeletal injury.

If you are healthy but overweight, you can safely begin and gradually build up to the general intensity and frequency of a senior program.

You will know when you are ready for a more intense program when you are able to walk 4 miles at a brisk pace and pass the talk test, ie., you are not out of breath.

Other considerations for the overweight exerciser

If you are on anti-hypertensive medication, take care to avoid adverse responses like orthostatic hypotension which may cause fainting.

If you are a diabetic, take special care to avoid hypoglycemic responses from anti-diabetic medication. Talk to your doctor about these before exercising.

Avoid exercises that tend to chaff your inner thighs and wear the best shoes you can afford to limit the possibility of injury.

Don’t hold your breath. Exhale during the effort part of an exercise. Don’t do too many sit-ups as the weight of the chest may impede your breathing. An alternative position to the sit-up for the overweight exerciser, is to stand with both hands against the wall and round the back while contracting the abdomen.

Consistent and quality effort toward elderly exercise and obesity will result in greater health and vitality.




12 Comments

  1. I am 82 years old worked til I was 75..after retiring I started putting on weight..and now it is creeping up daily. I tried walking the dog but can only go 1 block then my hips start aching. I have tried every diet known to man. I am pushing 205 which pisses me off since I was always slender my whole life working very physical jobs, carrying case of wine and beer being a bartender and walking alot. Now I have the big gut, if I get down on the floor It’s really hard to get up, so that stops me from gardening. somewhere I read I have a carbs hormone that controls it, adrenal gland. so what would help that gland? any help would be appreciated..I need motivation which I have none now.

    1. I’m not sure about a carbs hormone. The important thing to remember is to stay active. Start slowly with a few minutes a day and add a few more minutes as you improve. If you have a joint problem that is stopping you from being active, then see your doctor for recommendations. Joining a senior exercise group is wonderful for helping improve your strength, endurance, balance and flexibility. Check your local YMCA for senior exercise classes.

    2. Just wanted to post a heartfelt thanks to Doug for this fantastic site and all the work he does for seniors! Seriously overweight but otherwise healthy at 75, I ordered the DVD set and began on September 1, 2016. I started counting calories while eating healthy, and use the DVDs (rotating them) and my exercise bike almost every day. I have lost twenty pounds and many inches, but this has also beneficially affected my sleep, my digestion, and my relationships. Yes, I get sore, but follow his suggestions about that; I look on my soreness as a badge of honor when it happens! I feel so much stronger, so much more flexible, and so proud of myself that the weight loss is just an added bonus, not the primary goal anymore. Doug is a wonderful person and deserves our thanks!

      1. Thanks for the great comments! Glad you are improving in all those areas. Activity is vital as we age for all the reasons you have stated. Keep up the good work and God bless!

    3. Hi, First off, I am a mere 62, male, and have also put on some pounds. I can only commiserate that it is indeed hard to shed the weight. However, there is some hope. For me, these steps work:
      1) reduce starch in my diet. Beer especially is bad for us overweight folks because of a unique enzyme it has that builds up belly fat. No one has a “vodka belly,” right?
      2) get enough sleep. Very important for hormonal balance AND for production of testosterone, which works against weight gain.
      3) moving as much as I can. Parking further from destinations, taking stairs.
      4) working out with weights. Strength training is vital on many levels. Muscles use fat as fuel. If the blood is free of sugars, they get their fuel from stored fat.
      5) Try water aerobics. Reallyl amazing, with no weight bearing that causes hip pains.

      I hope this helps. Good luck.

    4. Hi, First off, I am a mere 62, male, and have also put on some pounds. I can only commiserate that it is indeed hard to shed the weight. However, there is some hope. For me, these steps work:
      1) reduce starch in my diet. Beer especially is bad for us overweight folks because of a unique enzyme it has that builds up belly fat. No one has a “vodka belly,” right?
      2) get enough sleep. Very important for hormonal balance AND for production of testosterone, which works against weight gain.
      3) moving as much as I can. Parking further from destinations, taking stairs.
      4) working out with weights. Strength training is vital on many levels. Muscles use fat as fuel. If the blood is free of sugars, they get their fuel from stored fat.
      5) Try water aerobics. Really amazing, with no weight bearing that causes hip pains.

      I hope this helps. Good luck.

  2. My 46 year old dad has been over weight for about 11 years now due to excessive eating. He does play an older leage softball team and bowling but this has caused him pain in his fingers. He is trying to find a way to lose weight but without hurting his left knee which pops out at random times and is uncomfortable for him.
    Please help me find a way to help him with a recommended type of exercise.
    Thank you

  3. I’m 72, 60-80 lbs overweight. For past 20 yrs I’ve suffered from cancer, serious blood diseases for which I took heavy doses of Predisone, suffered a large DVT/PE’s which left me weakened and overweight (from steroids).
    I’ve developed a menengioma and I’ve had a smalk stroke. Finally…I’m suffering severe chronic pain from severely arthritic (bone on bone) knees and acutely painful arthritis of the lumbar spine. Alk this, pkus severe Fibromyalgia. I’ve become more and more sedentary and withdrawn, due to the pain….and can hardly walk a block. I entered a pain management program a few years ago and am following a carefully monitored program of opoid meds….without which, I’d be unable to live independently, and I’d be in a wheelchair.
    So after leading a very active life….I’ve become quite sedentary. ..spending large chunks of time flat on my back.
    I know this isn’t good…but most activity is very painful.
    I’d like to begin a modified exercise program. …..but given my limitations….I need guidance. My bone on bone knees won’t bend….and my arthritic back goes into painful spasms. I use a cane to walk, and anything over a short block becomes too painful to continue. Finally, I’ve been experiencing serious pain behind my right knee….this is new. Hamstring?!
    I need suggestions for SAFE leg exercises I can do at home that won’t aggravate my pain, plus back exercises. I’ve been very quiet and need to get back into life. Thank you……

  4. I am 61 years old female. Gym with light weight reps. Watch my intake. Post menopause with complete hysterectomy. 5 ft 2 inches with 200 lb weight. All labs are normal. Taking only daily vitamins. Continue to gain weight. Doctor consulted with continue with light weights and cardio.

    1. Sounds like you are doing the right thing. Keep checking in with your doctor. Staying as active as you can with an eye on your intake is sensible and the best option for you.

    2. Congrats on the gym! I have multiple medical condictions which I know the gym will help. I am concerned that I still won’t be able to lose weight due to hypothyroidism.

    3. I would watch the carbs. Eating more nutrient-rich vegetables and fruits, and less red (fatty) meats and starches (potatoes, wheat, rice) can only help. Sugar should be an occasional treat. Gettting enough sleep is also important for hormone regulation.

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