Whilst I am not an expert in nutrition, I am qualified to provide tips with regard to strength and movement for clients who are obese.
My work spans both rehabilitation and educator, and it baffles me that I still find exercise professionals working with obese students and providing programmes that they would give a 21-year-old olympic athlete – it’s crazy. We know the evidence shows that in running alone, the risk of injury with those of a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 30 and above is increased, so why put your clients at risk?
The obesity fight is real, and the problem is only getting bigger (pardon the pun) – so how are we going to get people moving better and moving often? My military background has made me a great believer in the SAID principle (Specific Adaptations of Imposed Demands). This is basically ‘stress and adapt’ – if we don’t stress, we don’t adapt.
For example, when I did a 6-month PT SELECTION course, I took the approach that if we only trained on the days we were not sore, we wouldn’t have achieved anything (do you see where I am coming from?).
So, my first task with my obese students is to find what stress they can cope with without breaking them and doesn’t scare them away.
My four tips are:
1). Keep them moving
I know this may be obvious, but again, something I see quite regularly during sessions is students standing chatting away texting or taking selfies. I would say that for an obese student looking to use exercise as a weight control tool, we want to create a calorie deficit by keeping them moving. Between sets, if they have mobility issues (which most human beings do) get them doing sets of mobility correctives or even just walking up and down the gym.
The forgotten art of just walking is something I recommend to all my students with obesity issues. Walking is different to strolling, by the way. A good pace to aim for is the military Combat Fitness Test pace, which is 6.4 km/h. This can even be something to build up to for some clients. By no means do I have any of these students doing box jumps, sprints or burpees – the level of risk means it is just not worth it. Get them to walk everywhere in their everyday life too (a pedometer will help you keep track of this).
3). Farmers’ Carry
If we are to introduce something to keep students occupied between sets of exercise bouts, the farmers’ carry is awesome to challenge their system. I also throw in just carrying sessions – something like (depending on strength):
100 m carrying 20 kg (age dependant)
Rest 1 minute
Repeat 5 times
100 m single arm farmers’ carry (each side)
Rest 1 minute
Repeat 5 times
Finish off with some incline walking.
4). Make them feel comfortable enough to come back, but uncomfortable enough to know they have some work to do
Striking the balance with obesity students can be very challenging. The gym is just not part of their mindset (although you are there to help break this cycle). I find getting them to do exercise that suit their size (not leg presses, burpees etc, where they will feel uncomfortable due to the mobility issues around the torso) allows them to build self-worth and confidence. Remember, you need to stress them so that they feel good and want to achieve the outcomes they have set, but you also want them to focus on the journey – it is more important than the destination.
Move & Groove, fitness fanatics.