Short and sweet
Work up to 80% of your BSquat 1RM. Complete 5 sets of 3 reps. Pause 2 FULL seconds at the bottom of each rep.
Foam roll and get ready for Yoga.
Mary The Trieu does hourlong workouts at a CrossFit gym three to five days a week. She is also 5-foot-3 and weighs 205 pounds.
Ms. Trieu avoids junk food and eats balanced meals, but she’s not on a diet. She works out to keep her weight stable and because she enjoys it.
“As I started exercising, I just got this adrenaline rush,” says Ms. Trieu, an admissions officer at Columbia Business School. “It feels good to sweat. And it’s hard. Part of it is my ego: ‘Yes! I’m a bigger person, but I can still do the exercises you’re doing.’ ”
A recent study underscores that there are significant health benefits to overweight and obese people being physically active, even if they don’t lose a pound. The study, of 334,000 Europeans over 12 years, recorded twice as many deaths due to a lack of physical activity as due to obesity.
The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, backs up earlier research about the value of exercise in improving health. It found that as little as a brisk, daily 20-minute walk can extend life expectancy.
Some doctors say the diet industry and popular culture overemphasize weight loss and underemphasize the benefits of exercise for people of any size. Health clubs and fitness studios advertise with images of lean bodies. Many people stop exercising if they’re not losing weight.
Recently, images on Twitter and Instagram of women of all shapes doing yoga have surged, alongside hashtags such as #sizedoesntmatter. Online discussions abound about the best shoes for heavier runners. Plus-size model Ashley Graham will be featured in an ad for retailer swimsuitsforall in Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue this month. She also stars in a new series of online workouts called Curvy Fit Club.
Greg Degnan is medical director at ACAC, a chain of fitness and wellness centers in Virginia and Pennsylvania that include medical guidance. Dr. Degnan says that obesity carries inherent risks for conditions like heart disease, hypertension and type-2 diabetes. Lowering weight can be crucial in prevention.
But, he says, “We have for way too long focused on diets.” Exercise can improve blood pressure, lower cholesterol and improve circulation in overweight people. It’s also more palatable for most people than slashing calorie intake, he says.
Although the rate of obesity has leveled off in the U.S., nearly 69% of American adults are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Generally, people are deemed to be obese if they have a body-mass index of 30 or higher, and overweight if their BMI is between 25 and 29.9. Body-mass index is a ratio of height and weight.
Some in the medical community criticize the BMI as a measurement of individual health. They say it fails to distinguish different types of body mass.
Louise Green holds boot camps and adventure excursions for plus-size women in Vancouver, British Columbia. Many of her clients focus on getting regular physical activity and are no longer on commercial diets. They hike mountains, snowshoe and are “super fit,” Ms. Green says.
Jeanette DePatie says that well-meaning people at the gym assume that all heavier people are trying to lose weight. Some have told her, “Stick with it, and you’ll get the body you want.”
Ms. DePatie is a certified fitness instructor in Duarte, Calif., speaker and author of “The Fat Chick Works Out!” About 16 years ago, she read a book critical of the diet industry and had an epiphany: “I’m not the only one that fails at this. Almost everyone fails at this.”
She began seeking out exercise that she enjoyed, and now teaches three or four dance-based exercise classes a week, in addition to walking, biking and doing yoga. She finds that she sleeps better, has more stable moods and gets sick less often.
Most people who go on diets fail to sustain weight loss, a UCLA study found. The best way to lose weight and keep it off is to make realistic, long-term changes in diet and exercise regularly, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Mirna Valerio runs regularly on the campus of the Rabun Gap-Nacoochee boarding and day school in Rabun Gap, Ga., where she is a Spanish instructor and coach of the cross-country running team. The 39-year-old chronicles her trail runs and other long-distance races on a blog called Fat Girl
Running. It includes recommendations on plus-size workout gear and a post on her frustration at doctors assuming at a glance that she is inactive.
“People have said to me, ‘I don’t understand why you’re not thinner,’ ” Ms. Valerio says. “The last time I was thin was second grade. I am who I am.”
She says she comes from a family of big and tall people. Research shows that genes can influence a person’s weight.
“I would love to be a tiny bit smaller, but that’s not my body type,” she says. “As long as my running clothes fit, I’m good.” She’s training for a 34-mile trail run in March.
Ms. Trieu, the college administrator, also has been larger for most of her life. After college, she lost about 70 pounds over several years by limiting junk food and walking at first, then doing hot yoga, boot camps and running. She has kept off the weight by doing CrossFit workouts.
Doctors say she should lose more, even though her vital signs are normal, she says. She fears that losing weight would require a diet of deprivation and even more exercise. She already exceeds the CDC recommendations for physical activity, sometimes by an hour or two a week.
If weight loss were her primary focus, Ms. Trieu says, “I would obsess over it and that would make me crazy.”