Is It Ok To Run If You’re Overweight?

Running might seem like a sport that’s way beyond you if you’re currently overweight, but the truth is that running can be a great way to strengthen your muscles, improve your breathing, and lose unwanted pounds. It’s definitely okay to run if you’re overweight!

There are, of course, some things you will want to be aware of before you hit the sidewalk, trail, or treadmill, so we’re going to look at some of the things you should be aware of if you’re overweight and want to take up running to make sure you’re exercising safely!

What Is A Good Running Plan According To BMI?

Calculating your BMI before you hit the road should give you an idea of your weight (though BMI fails to account for things like muscle, etc.). If you find that you’re significantly overweight, you’ll need to approach running with more care so that you don’t injure yourself or put unnecessary stress on your joints.

There’s no set amount of running that you should do according to your BMI, and you may not notice your BMI going down as a result of exercise – because while you may be shedding fat, you’ll be gaining muscle. BMI is just a useful indicator of where you should start.

Related: Which Exercise Machine Is The Best At Helping You Lose Weight?

What Running Technique Should I Use If I’m Overweight?

Overweight runners can benefit from the same sorts of techniques that average-weight runners can benefit from. These include rhythmic breathing, the walk/run strategy, and good running form.

Rhythmic breathing involves controlling your breathing to make sure you are taking in plenty of oxygen with each breath. You can change the counts, but as a general indication, you should breathe out for three steps, and then in for two steps. You’ll find this improves your rhythm as well as your lung capacity.

The walk/run strategy is another good option for heavy runners. It involves mixing running with walking, and is good even for experienced runners, although they will have a higher ratio of walking to running. When you start out, you might find you’re almost entirely walking, and that’s fine.

Good running form is important for everyone and will reduce the chances of injury if you’re overweight. It involves running upright, with your torso and shoulders straight to maximize your lung capacity. Your foot should land below your center of mass, supporting your weight evenly.

Related: 13 Tips To Avoid Injury If You’re Overweight And Starting To Run

Is It Bad To Run If You’re Obese?

No, running can benefit everyone – as long as you approach running sensibly and slowly and take precautions. It is bad to run too intensely if you are obese, as this will put stress on your joints and could lead to injury.

As long as you create a sensible running plan, build in rest days, and do not overdo it, you will benefit from running whether you are obese or not, but you do need to be careful of the impact that running has on your joints.

Related: How To Fortify Your Mind To Help You Lose Weight!

Also, if you are considered obese according to the BMI scale, use caution when starting a new running regime/habit. Obesity has been know to be associated with and cause other underlying issues like diabetes and heart disease (CDC – Adult Obesity Causes & Consequences). It’s in the best interest of your health to get a physical exam with a licensed medical professional. Also, tell the licensed medical professional your intent to start running. They will give you guidelines for running or alternatives to running until you successfully lose weight.

Related: Why Am I Struggling To Lose Weight While Running

What Does Running Do to Your Knees If You’re Overweight?

Running is a high-impact sport anyway, and if you’re carrying extra weight, it can be more damaging. That means you need to be very careful. Your knees are likely to take the most pounding from running, so be careful.

It’s thought that running can damage the knees because, over time, the impact wears at the joint, constantly jostling it around. However, it is also thought that exercise – in moderation – strengthens the joint.

That means that running can strengthen your knees as long as you do not overdo it. If you’re overweight, you will need to take more care and remember that there is more impact on your knees with every step, so you have to exercise in moderation and give your joints recovery time.

Related: Is Running Bad For Your Knees?

What Exercises Are Best For Overweight People?

There are lots of alternative exercises if you don’t fancy running. Walking is a great option, which can be combined with running, but is a lower impact. Walking can be strenuous and get your heart rate up if you walk quickly, especially if you’re out of shape, so it carries many of the same benefits as running.

Other good options include cycling, strengthening exercises such as leg lifts, swimming, yoga, or a team sport such as tennis. Anything that gets your body moving feels good, and isn’t too intense, to begin with, is a great way to get started with exercising.

Related: Is Walking Better Than Running?

Can I Run Long Distances If I’m Overweight?

It is best not to aim for long-distance running to get started, although you can run any distance you feel like. However, remember the importance of not overdoing it, and not putting too much stress on your joints.

It’s important to build up to long distances slowly. That’s why challenges such as couch to 5K are so popular. Suddenly taking up intense running is not healthy and is likely to result in injury. Run long distances if you want to, but work up to them slowly.

Related: Most Common Excuses Not To Run And How To Avoid Them!

What Kind Of Running Drills Should I Avoid If I’m Overweight?

There are certain kinds of drills that may not work very well for you if you’re overweight. Very high-intensity drills are not a good idea when you’re just getting started or carrying a lot of extra weight.

You should avoid sprinting, tempo runs, and hill repeats, because all of these will put unnecessary stress on your joints and could result in injury if you’re out of shape. They involve high-speed movement that will take your focus away from your breathing and good running form.

It is better to focus on getting the feeling for running and building up slowly than to launch into these intense drills.

Have you heard of aqua jogging? This is a great exercise for individuals that need a little less impact on the joints. Check out my detailed post on what aqua jogging is and how to get started with simple routines.

Should I Use A Run/Walk Technique To Start With If I’m Overweight?

Yes, definitely. The run/walk technique can benefit any runner, even experienced runners, because it helps build running endurance without being overwhelming. It gives the muscles a short break from the intense exercise and also encourages you to warm up properly before starting, reducing the chance of injury.

If you are overweight, you may do a lot of walking and not a lot of running, but that’s great because it will allow you to gradually build up to running in a way that is safe and comfortable. It will also give you a good indication of how fast you’re improving.

Related: How To Use A Run/Walk Technique

Will Running Help Me Lose Weight?

Running will help you burn calories, which is crucial to weight loss. Bear in mind that you may put weight back on in muscle gain, but if you are overweight, running can be a great way to shed some pounds, yes.

Related: What Happens To Your Body When You Walk More?

What Are The Benefits Of Running For Overweight People?

The main reason that many people take up running is weight loss, but it can also help with things such as:

  • Improved lung capacity
  • Better joint strength
  • Better posture
  • Better heart health
  • Reduced appetite
  • Reduced blood pressure and cholesterol levels

There are other health benefits that running offers, and it can lead to improved confidence and possibly even socializing as you get into the sport. It may also help to boost your mental health.

Related: Does Vibration Training Help You Lose Weight? 

A Great Plan For Overweight Beginners

Here is a great plan for overweight beginners (

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Running is great for people of all weights, and it can be a good way to lose a few pounds if that is your goal. Just make sure you approach it sensibly and talk to your doctor before setting up a running plan so you don’t injure yourself or unnecessarily stress your joints.

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Coach Scott's Credentials:
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He has published over 20 books including, Beginner's Guide to Half Marathons: A Simple Step-By-Step Solution to Get You to the Finish Line in 12 Weeks! (Beginner To Finisher Book 3), which has become an Amazon International #1 bestseller. Scott specializes in helping new runners become injury-free race finishers. He recently completed his 22nd half marathon race. 

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