Welcome to my guide on how to start exercising if you're extremely overweight (or obese) and out of shape.

I've created this guide as a step-by-step blueprint you can follow, no matter the level of fitness you're starting at.

What might surprise you, is that this guide puts your chances of actually building a lifelong habit of exercise first, and maximizing your weight loss results second.

(Though I've written this guide with both of these benefits in mind.)

Before we get started, here's a brief overview of what I've covered in this guide:

This is how much exercise you should (officially) do

The official exercise guidelines give you two options:

  1. Do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise (a bit over 20 minutes per day).
  2. Do at least 1 hour and 15 minutes per week of high intensity aerobic exercise (a bit over 10 minutes daily).

Aerobic exercise is also called cardio exercise, and it includes (almost) any type of activity that raises your heartbeat and gets you sweating.

This includes walking, running, jogging, swimming, cycling, etc.

As far as this guide is concerned, we'll completely ignore the official recommendations.

Instead, I'll show you how to adopt an exercise routine that will feel quite comfortable (to your mind and your body).

Not only will this keep you out of harm's way, but will actually skyrocket your chances of success!

Figure this out before you even begin to dream of success

If you're an obese or unfit person, trying to kick-start a daily exercise routine, figuring out the maximum daily amount of exercise you're still comfortable with, should be your number one priority.


Because, if you actually want a fighting chance at sticking to your new daily habit of exercise, you MUST NOT overextend yourself.

If you take on too much exercise and simply force yourself into sticking with it for a few days, your chances of falling off the bandwagon will skyrocket!

You probably know this from your own experience, but in a sore and exhausted body, even the strongest of minds will give up.

How much daily exercise are you actually comfortable with?

So, how do you determine the maximum daily amount of exercise you can still be comfortable with?

There is no fancy formula or a device that can find this out for you. You'll simply have to rely on good old-fashioned trial and error.

Just go out and do your favorite type of exercise (walk, jog, run...) for as long as it feels comfortable.

Remember not to exhaust yourself too much, save some of your strength for tomorrow.

Try to repeat the same amount (and intensity) of exercise the next day as well. If things start to feel harder than yesterday, feel free to cut your second-day session short.

Do the same thing on the third day, and you'll soon figure out how much exercise per day you can handle day in and day out.

(The key here really is being comfortable, not just barely surviving your daily exercise session.)

This is how you maximize fat burn during exercise

One more thing you should pay attention to, is how hard you're exercising (regardless of whether you're jogging, cycling, swimming...)

This is especially true, if you're interested in exercising at a pace where you maximize your fat burn rate.

The good news is, the intensity of exercise necessary for maximum fat burn is pretty light.

A good rule of thumb to keep exercising at an optimal pace, is the so called "breathing test":

You have to exercise at a pace where your breathing is fast, but only to a point where you're still able to keep a normal conversation.

(There are several more reliable ways of finding your maximum fat burning pace of exercise. You can read all about those here.)

How long will it take until you figure all this out?

I'd say it will take at least three consecutive days of trial and error to figure all this out.

In my experience, the amount of daily exercise you can comfortably live with, is about two thirds of what you can do on the first day.

After you discover how much daily exercise you can build your life around, make sure to keep at it for at least one week.

No matter how tempted you might feel, DO NOT increase the duration or intensity of exercise during the first week.

Your first goal isn't to become a marathon runner in 7 days or less, but to start building a rock-solid daily habit of exercise.

So take a week (or more, if necessary) to become really comfortable with your new daily routine.

Then, and only then it's time to ask yourself...

How to correctly progress in your daily exercise routine?

Taking on too much exercise too soon is easily the single biggest mistake overweight and out of shape people make, as they struggle to start exercising on a daily basis.

Just bear with me through this "ridiculous" example:

Imagine you started your new daily exercise routine with a 30-second walk.

After the first week or so, you'd add another 30 seconds to your walk (and, oh my, walk for a full minute).

But if you kept at it, and added just 30 seconds to your daily walking routine day in and day out, how long would your daily walks become in a year?

The answer is, more than three hours!

But if you started walking for an hour or more from day one, you'd probably find the whole thing way too stressful for you, and eventually give up on it.

And that's the difference between you walking three hours per day a year from now and you walking zero seconds per day a year from now.

Never underestimate the power of starting small and making slow, but steady progress.

What to do if you feel like your progress isn't fast enough?

If you start feeling like your daily exercise routine isn't long or intense enough to help you reach your weight loss goals as quickly as possible, you need to remind yourself of these two facts:

  1. You're getting better and better at actually sticking to your new daily exercise habit. Plus, you're doing it at the time and intensity that won't ruin your health, and more importantly, won't kill your motivation to keep going.
  2. Your progress might seem slow to you at the moment, but this is the exact line of thinking that made you jump into some intense exercise program in the past (only to quit it after a couple of days).

If, after thinking about this for a while, you still feel 100% sure that your body and your mind are ready for more exercise, then up the time or intensity of your daily sessions.

(By a little.)

Daily exercise isn't a necessary, but a very smart thing to do

You should know that the official exercise guidelines only talk about how much time you should exercise every week.

(Yes, it was me who dared calculating how much time you'd need to exercise per day.)

So in theory, you could exercise 5, 4, or even "just" 3 times a week. But there's a very good reason why I suggest you exercise every single day:

Because, you see, for people like you and me, habits control huge parts of our everyday lives. They don't say for nothing we're creatures of habit.

Just think about this for a while.

If on some days, you go out jogging, while on others you lie on your couch and watch TV, you're constantly switching your daily routine.

In other words, your mind will be unable to recognize your attempts at exercise as something it needs to train itself to do every day.

So if you choose not to exercise every day, then don't be surprised if your mind chooses to go back to the daily habit of lying on the couch (instead of helping you exercise every now and then).

Bulletproof your new daily habit of exercise with this

Like I said, we're creatures of habit. Exercising every single day can help you build a rock-solid habit of exercise, but so can this:

If you can, set aside a specific time of day for your new exercise habit.

Your new routine doesn't have to feel like you're catching a train, so you don't need to set an exact time to do it (tough you can, if you want to).

Just make sure you do it under the same circumstances every day. As the very first thing in the morning, right before dinner, or immediately after work, for example.

If you're not exercising at all right now, then the idea of springing out of bed and putting on your running shoes might not feel too comfortable.

But if you repeat this for long enough, the habit will become so well imprinted in your mind, that you will begin to do it on autopilot.

You know how they say...a plan is what'll get you started, a habit is what'll keep you going.

On to the next most important thing when it comes to solidifying your new daily habit of exercise.

Can exercise actually destroy your health?

Yes, of course it can, especially if you're struggling with a medical condition.

I'm required by law (and common sense) to warn you that only your doctor is qualified to tell you if it's safe for you to try just about any kind of an exercise program.

So talk to your doctor, especially if you're an extremely overweight or out of shape person, who hasn't done any exercise in years.

After that, use a combination of your common sense and the blueprint I've laid out for you in this guide.

As long as you don't fall into the oldest of traps, where you try to speed up your weight loss results at the expense of your health, you'll do just fine.

How do I know this exercise blueprint works?

What you're about to read is a short and personal success story.

(I'm not sharing it with you to brag, but hoping it'll motivate you and show you anything is possible with the right approach.)

Just a couple of years ago, I was obese and so out of shape that I couldn't even do 20 minutes of light intensity exercise.

A few months ago, I ran my first half marathon (that's 13 miles or 21 kilometers).

How did I get there?

By following ALL the advice I shared with you in this guide. So do the same.

Slow and steady ALWAYS wins the race, regardless how far away your goals might seem right now.

Summary (actionable takeaways)

In my guide on how to start exercising even if you're extremely overweight (or obese) and out of shape, I've covered more than enough ground to get you started.

(And to keep you going.)

From finding out how much exercise your body (and your mind) can comfortably handle, to learning how to exercise at the perfect fat burning pace.

So it does not matter how much exercise you can currently, do, this guide has shown you how to start building a new, rock-solid habit of daily exercise.

(I'm freely sharing the tips that took years me years to gather with you on this website. All I ask in return is that you help me spread the word. So please use the share buttons if you can.)

Written by

Rok Sprogar is a NASM Certified Nutrition Coach (NASM-CNC) and a NASM Certified Weight Loss Specialist (NASM-WLS) who has been contributing highly actionable and science-based content to Leanhigh.