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The limited mobility, reduced range of motion and discomfort imposed by an obese body make the very actions an overweight individual most needs to do -- such as getting in or out of an exercise machine -- challenging and potentially embarrassing. Most exercise machines have maximum weight limits that may exclude the obese -- but some exercise equipment is specifically designed to accommodate those who need it the most.
The Importance of Exercise
The Weight-control Information Network warns that more than one-third of United States adults are obese. A 2006 analysis published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews -- incorporating more than 40 studies and more than 3,400 participants -- yielded conclusive proof that exercise and a healthy diet are the best treatment for overweight and obesity, although exercise can produce small weight losses on its own.
Every piece of exercise equipment is rated for a maximum user weight. Home exercise machines that can support 300 pounds or more are relatively rare, especially in the lower price ranges. But many -- if not all -- gym machines will support 300 pounds or more. These machines are exactly the same type you'd find in any fitness centers -- bikes, treadmills and elliptical trainers, especially -- and work just the same as exercise equipment made to fit smaller bodies. Most home equipment manufacturers list user weight limits on their websites. For gym equipment, your trainer or the manager can discreetly research any piece of equipment's weight limit for you.
Types of Equipment
Technically speaking, any piece of gym equipment with a high enough weight limit can accommodate an obese exerciser. But certain machines are easier to get in and out of and more comfortable to use. Recumbent bikes offer a much wider, more comfortable seat than upright bikes, plus a backrest to support your upper body as you pedal; the seat adjusts forward and back to accommodate your torso. Many commercial treadmills have widely spaced handlebars that are sturdy enough to support you but won't get in your way while you walk; and some commercial elliptical trainers come with widely spaced, stationary side rails that you can hold onto for support as you pedal. And if you find your gym's weight machines to be uncomfortable or barbells to be too small, dumbbells fit any body type.
Equipment for Home Use
A few brands that cater specifically to overweight and obese individuals have capitalized on this captive market by introducing exercise equipment designed specifically to fit larger bodies. You can also buy commercial or light-commercial exercise equipment -- the sort you'd see in the gym, which is often large and sturdy enough to support a 300-pound or heavier body -- for home use.
Alternatives to Exercise Equipment
If you don't have access to weight equipment that can safely support your weight, try swimming, aqua aerobics or walking in a pool. Extra body fat can act as insulation, leaving you uncomfortably hot during workouts -- but the water's cooling effects can help keep you at a more comfortably body temperature. Water offers challenging resistance to your every movement but also supports most of your body weight, reducing the load on your joints and allowing a longer, easier range of motion.