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The Best Exercises to Get Back in Shape

Medically reviewed by Mike Kenneth Go Doratan, MD · General Surgery · The Medical City Ortigas

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jan 17

The Best Exercises to Get Back in Shape

Exercising is a vital component of promoting and maintaining overall health. However, if you are overweight or generally unfit, it is not advisable to jump ahead to the most exhausting physical routine. Experts agree that you should at least ease into it. What is a good starting exercise for those who are overweight and unfit?

How Much Exercise Should You Aim For?

As a general rule, many health institutions suggest that we should do at least 150 minutes or 2.5 hours of moderate exercise per week. This also translates to at least 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week.

But, to kickstart weight loss, you need to increase your energy expenditure by 1000 to 1200 calories per week. That’s roughly 150 calories per day. Of course, these numbers depend on several factors, like your initial weight, the intensity of the workout, and duration.

While it is quite easy to measure the minutes or calories, determining what “moderate exercise” stands for, is quite tricky.

Come to think of it, what may be moderate for others may already be strenuous for you. To decide on a good exercise for overweight and unfit individuals, you must also consider your capacity.

The question now is, if you are out of shape, what are your options for “moderate exercise”?

Consider Your METs (Metabolic Equivalents)

To answer the question about moderate exercises, let us talk about METs.

If you want to lose weight, you might think of exercise in terms of how much calories you can burn. Although it is not entirely wrong, thinking about calories alone may make you forget about important things such as your endurance and strength.

Metabolic Equivalents

For exercise researchers, it is more important to think of physical activities in terms of METs. METs stand for “metabolic equivalents.” Simply put, a metabolic equivalent measures a person’s level of exertion based on the amount of oxygen they use for a particular activity.

To give you better insight, sitting down quietly is an activity rated with 1 MET. If an activity is rated at 2 MET, then you are using twice as much oxygen as sitting down. An activity rated at 3 MET uses thrice as much oxygen, and so forth.

Researchers who study exercises say that activities rated at 3.0 to 6.0 MET are considered moderate physical activities.

But they also emphasize that “people in their advanced years or who are unfit” may require more effort to perform these moderate workouts. Hence, they may want to “scale down” to activities rated at 2.0 to 4.0 METs.

Keeping this in mind, what exercise is best for the overweight and unfit?

exercise for overweight and unfit

Best Workout if You Are Out-of Shape and Overweight

If you want to start an exercise that is good for those who are overweight and unfit, you can consider the following:

Household Chores

Many of the household chores are rated at 2.0 to 4.0 METs per hour. Here are some examples:

  • Light gardening – 2.0
  • General house cleaning – 3.0
  • Heavy yard work or heavy gardening – 4.0
  • Sweeping or cleaning the floor or carpet – 3.3
  • Sewing with a machine – 2.8

Routine Activities

Some routine activities that many people would rather skip are great exercises for the overweight and unfit. They are also a good starting point since you can do them while accomplishing other tasks and you do not need to spend money to take advantage of their benefits.

Let us look at the following examples:

  • Ditching the elevator and taking the stairs instead.
  • Parking away from the gate of your workplace or grocery store, so you can walk the short distance.
  • Walking and playing with children at a moderate level are already rated 3.5 MET an hour.


It may seem like a really difficult activity, what with all the complicated videos available online, but yoga is very versatile in terms of intensity level. For this reason, it is also a good exercise for people who are overweight and unfit.

Experts recommend yoga because it has a lot of stretching poses that help improve your flexibility. It can also improve the strength of your bones and muscles, as well as reduce stress.

Swimming and Other Water Exercises

For those who are overweight, experts do not recommend workouts that may put a strain on the joints such as running. A better option would be swimming since it reduces weight-bearing. Additionally, swimming is a full-body workout that can strengthen bones and muscles.


An activity that requires little to no learning curve, modern dancing for an hour is rated at 4.8 MET. One great thing about dancing is it is highly flexible. You can do it with your friends and family or in the privacy of your home.

The least you will need for it is music or instructional videos. You can even choose how you will move depending on your ability and style preference.


Learning or playing sports is a great opportunity to work out. Although people who are overweight and unfit may find some barriers, there are simple sports activities that are bound to kick-start their journey to fitness.

  • Bicycling for leisure, or cycling to work
  • Billiards
  • Bowling
  • Table tennis
  • Ping pong


Despite these recommendations, please do not forget that exercises for overweight and unfit individuals need careful monitoring. By-the-book, you can label an exercise as “light” or “moderate,” but it definitely still depends on how you feel about it. For this reason, it is highly important to check with your doctor about the best course of action.

Maintaining the level of activity is crucial to achieve and maintain weight loss. However, do not forget that you can break your routine into chunks. If your goal is 60 minutes daily, you can divide it into six 10-minute sessions.

Finally, while working out, stop immediately if you experience:

These symptoms may suggest that you are going way beyond what your body can accommodate.

Key Takeaways

When it comes to exercise, your goal matters a great deal. Most people would just like to lose weight as fast and as much as they can. For this reason, they resort to exercise goals that are far from doable and sustainable.

Exercise for the overweight and unfit is best done with the supervision of your physician or trainer since the idea is to ease into a healthy routine. Remember, starting slow and small can give you a higher chance of maintaining your progress.

Learn more about Health Fitness here. 


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mike Kenneth Go Doratan, MD

General Surgery · The Medical City Ortigas

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jan 17

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