Plus-Size Women: The Best Exercise Routines to Help You Get Fit and Fabulous

Exercise routines for plus-sized women are essential to a healthy lifestyle, but it can be tough to know where to begin. Nonetheless, plenty of exercise routines can be tailored to your fitness level and preferences.

One of the most important things for plus-size women to consider when starting an exercise routine is finding activities they enjoy. This could include anything from walking or swimming to dance classes or yoga.

Whether you’re just starting or looking to switch up your current routine, this article will provide useful tips and resources to help you find an exercise routine that works for you.

Exercise Routines for Plus-Size Women

two woman in facemask holding a yoga mat

Exercise is essential to a healthy lifestyle, but getting started can be daunting. The key is to start small and build from there.

A good exercise routine for plus-size women should focus on building strength, improving cardiovascular health, and increasing flexibility.

It should also be low-impact to avoid putting excess stress on joints and minimize the risk of injury. Below are some exercise routines that are great for plus-size women:

Cardiovascular Exercises

Cardiovascular or cardio, or aerobic exercises are physical activities that increase your heart rate, breathing rate, and blood circulation.

Exercise RoutineLow ImpactCustomizabilityFriendliness to Prevent Health Conditions
WalkingYesHighLowers risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and obesity
SwimmingYesMediumHelps alleviate joint pain and improves lung function
Aqua AerobicsYesHighIt helps alleviate joint pain and improves lung function
CyclingYesHighImproves heart health and joint mobility
DancingYesMediumEnhances coordination, balance, and cognitive function

These exercises strengthen your heart, lungs, and muscles while improving your health and fitness. Some great options for plus-size women include:

Walking

Walking is great, as it’s low impact, easy to do, and can be done almost anywhere. It’s a great way to increase your heart rate, burn calories, and improve cardiovascular health. Start with a few minutes daily and gradually increase the time.

a woman sporting a Reebok sweatshirt and jogging pants and shoes

Example Routine:

Warm-Up (5-10 minutes)

  • Start slowly and steadily to warm your muscles and increase your heart rate.
  • Begin pedaling moderately for 2-3 minutes, gradually increasing the intensity.

Main Workout (20-30 minutes)

  • Begin with a moderate pace and gradually increase your intensity to a challenging level.
  • Cycle at your maximum effort for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of active recovery (cycling slowly).
  • Repeat this cycle for 20-30 minutes.

Cool-Down (5-10 minutes)

  • Slow down your pace and pedal at a moderate intensity.
  • Stretch your legs, back, and shoulders to prevent soreness and injury.

Tips

  • Adjust the resistance of the bike according to your fitness level.
  • If you’re new to cycling, start with shorter intervals and gradually increase your workout time.
  • Listen to your body and take breaks when needed.
  • Stay hydrated throughout your workout.

Swimming

Swimming is a great way to exercise your body while reducing joint stress. It can also help improve your cardiovascular health, build strength, and increase flexibility.

top shot of a woman swimming on a pool

Example Routine:

Sure, here’s an example exercise routine for swimming.

Warm-Up (5-10 minutes)

  • Start with a few minutes of light swimming, gradually increasing your intensity.
  • Once warmed up, do dynamic stretches to loosen up your muscles, such as arm circles and leg swings.

Main Workout (20-30 minutes)

  • Swim freestyle moderately for 5-10 minutes to continue warming up.
  • Then, swim 4-6 laps (or more if you’re more advanced) faster, focusing on your technique and form.
  • Rest briefly (10-20 seconds) between each lap to catch your breath.
  • Repeat the fast laps/rest cycle for 15-20 minutes, depending on your fitness level.
  • If you feel comfortable, incorporate other swimming strokes into your workout, such as backstroke or breaststroke, to vary the muscle groups you’re working.

Cool-Down (5-10 minutes)

  • Slow down your pace and swim at a comfortable, easy pace for 5-10 minutes.
  • Use this time to do static stretches to cool down and prevent soreness and injury. Examples include touching your toes to stretch your hamstrings, pulling your heel to your buttocks to stretch your quads, and reaching your arm across your chest to stretch your shoulders.

Tips

  • Wear appropriate swim gear, such as a swimsuit and goggles, to enhance your comfort and performance.
  • If you’re new to swimming, start with shorter workout times and gradually increase as you build endurance.
  • Don’t forget to breathe! Inhale through your mouth and exhale through your nose while swimming.

Aqua Aerobics

Aqua aerobics is a fun exercise routine in the pool. It’s a great workout that is suitable for all fitness levels, and it can be a great way to meet new people and socialize. Look for classes specifically designed for plus-size women.

Example Routine:

Warm-Up (5-10 minutes)

  • Start by standing in chest-deep water and jogging lightly in place for 1-2 minutes, gradually increasing your pace.
  • Next, do simple stretching exercises like arm swings and leg curls to loosen up your muscles and joints.

Main Workout (20-30 minutes)

  • Do 2-3 minutes of each of the following exercises, with a 30-second rest in between:
    1. Jogging: jog in place while moving your arms in a circular motion
    2. Knee lifts: bring your knees up to your chest, alternating between legs
    3. Jumping jacks: jump up and spread your legs and arms out wide, then jump back to the starting position
    4. Cross-country ski: move your arms and legs back and forth in a skiing motion
  • Once you’ve completed each exercise, repeat the entire sequence.
  • For an added challenge, you can incorporate other exercises, such as scissor kicks, bicycle kicks, and leg lifts.

Cool-Down (5-10 minutes)

  • Slow down your pace and walk around the pool in waist-deep water for a few minutes.
  • Finish with static stretches to cool down and prevent soreness and injury, such as hamstring, quad, and shoulder stretches.

Tip

  • Use water weights or resistance bands to add resistance and increase the intensity of your workout.

Cycling

Cycling can be done indoors on a stationary bike or outdoors on a traditional bike. It’s a great way to get fresh air, explore the outdoors, and exercise. Start with a stationary bike if you’re not comfortable cycling outdoors.

a woman with her coach on the stationary bike

Example Routine:

Warm-Up (5-10 minutes)

  • Start slowly and steadily to warm your muscles and increase your heart rate.
  • Begin pedaling moderately for 2-3 minutes, gradually increasing the intensity.

Main Workout (20-30 minutes)

  • Begin with a moderate pace and gradually increase your intensity to a challenging level.
  • Cycle steadily for 5-10 minutes to continue warming up.
  • Then, increase your resistance and cycle faster for 2-3 minutes.
  • Recover for 1-2 minutes at a slower pace.
  • Repeat this cycle of higher intensity and recovery for 15-20 minutes, depending on your fitness level.
  • You can also incorporate sprints, or hill climbs to vary the workout and challenge yourself.

Cool-Down (5-10 minutes)

  • Slow down your pace and pedal at a moderate intensity.
  • Stretch your legs, back, and shoulders to prevent soreness and injury.

Tips

  • Adjust the resistance of the bike according to your fitness level.
  • Listen to your body and take breaks when needed.

Dancing

Dancing can be done alone or in a group and can be modified to fit your fitness level. It’s a great way to improve balance, coordination, and flexibility while having fun. Dancing is also a great stress reliever and can help boost your mood.

a woman doing stretching

Example Routine:

Warm-Up (5-10 minutes)

  • Start with light cardio, such as jumping jacks or jogging in place, for 2-3 minutes.
  • Then, do some stretching exercises, such as hamstring stretches and shoulder rolls, to warm up your muscles and prevent injury.

Main Workout (20-30 minutes)

  • Choose your favorite dance styles, such as salsa, hip-hop, or ballet.
  • Start with some basic steps and gradually add more challenging movements.
  • Dance at a moderate intensity for 5-10 minutes to continue warming up.
  • Then, increase your pace and dance at a higher intensity for 10-15 minutes.
  • Incorporate different dance moves, such as spins, jumps, and turns, to challenge yourself.
  • Don’t forget to alternate between upper and lower body movements to work for different muscle groups.

Cool-Down (5-10 minutes)

  • Do some stretching exercises to cool down.
  • Focus on stretching your legs, back, and shoulders to release tension and improve flexibility.

Tips

  • Choose music that motivates you and matches your preferred dance style.
  • If you’re new to dancing, start with simple steps and gradually build up to more complex moves.
  • Don’t worry about perfection; focus on having fun and enjoying the music.

Strength Training Exercises

Strength training exercises are important for building muscle and increasing metabolism.

ExerciseLow ImpactCustomizabilityFriendliness to Prevent Health Conditions
Bodyweight ExercisesIt can be a low impact if modified for individual needs, such as reducing the range of motion or using support for exercises.High

Builds strength and endurance without the need for equipment
Resistance Band ExercisesIt can be a high impact if not performed with proper form or using too much weight. It can be modified for individual needs by reducing weight or using machines with support.HighProvides resistance training with low impact on joints
Weight Lifting with Dumbbells or KettlebellsIt can be a low impact if modified for those with lower back issuesMediumIt helps build muscle mass and bone density but can be hard on joints

The following are in-depth guides for these exercises:

Bodyweight Exercises

Bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, and push-ups are great for plus-size women as they don’t require equipment and can be done anywhere. These exercises help build strength in your lower body, upper body, and core, which can improve your overall fitness level and help you perform daily activities with ease. Focus on proper form and gradually increase reps.

a woman doing a squat exercise

Example Routines:

Warm-Up

  • Jog in place: 1 minute
  • Jumping jacks: 1 minute
  • High knees: 1 minute
  • Butt kicks: 1 minute

Bodyweight Exercises

  1. Push-ups: Get into a plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart and your body straight from head to heels. Lower your chest toward the ground by bending your elbows, then push back up. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.
  2. Squats: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms straight before you. Bend your knees and lower your hips as if sitting in a chair, then push back up. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.
  3. Lunges: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on your hips. Step forward with your right leg and lower your body until your right knee forms a 90-degree angle. Push back up and step back to the starting position. Do three sets of 10 reps on each leg.
  4. Plank: Get into a push-up position and lower yourself down onto your forearms. Hold your body straight from head to heels for as long as possible. Try to hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute, and repeat for three sets.
  5. Mountain climbers: Get into a plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart and your body straight from head to heels. Bring your right knee toward your chest, then quickly switch and bring your left knee toward your chest. Keep alternating for 1 minute, then rest for 30 seconds. Repeat for 3 sets.
  6. Burpees: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides. Bend your knees and place your hands on the ground before you, then jump your feet back into a plank position. Do a push-up, then jump your feet back to your hands and jump up as high as possible. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.

Cool-down

  • Hamstring stretch: 10 reps on each leg
  • Quad stretch: 10 reps on each leg
  • Shoulder stretch: 10 reps on each arm
  • Chest stretch: 10 reps

Resistance Band Exercises

Resistance band exercises can be done anywhere, making fitting them into your daily routine easy. These exercises use stretchy bands that come in different resistance levels, allowing you to increase the difficulty as you get stronger. They can help strengthen your muscles, improve your posture, and increase your range of motion.

a woman doing a resistance band exercise

Example Routine:

Warm-Up

  • Arm circles: 10 reps forward and backward
  • Shoulder rolls: 10 reps forward and backward
  • Side stretches: 10 reps on each side
  • Squats: 10 reps

Resistance Band Exercises

  1. Bicep curls: Stand on the band with your feet hip-width apart and hold the handles with your palms facing up. Bend your elbows to curl the bands toward your shoulders, then lower them back down. Do 3 sets of 12 reps.
  2. Tricep extensions: Hold one end of the band in your right hand and reach behind your back to grab the other end with your left hand. Raise your right arm, extend it straight up, and lower it back down. Do three sets of 12 reps on each side.
  3. Chest press: Wrap the band around your back and hold the handles with your palms facing forward. Push your arms forward to bring the bands together in front of your chest, then release them back. Do 3 sets of 12 reps.
  4. Shoulder press: Stand on the band with your feet hip-width apart and hold the handles at shoulder height with your palms facing forward. Push the bands up overhead, then lower them back down. Do 3 sets of 12 reps.
  5. Rows: Sit on the floor with your legs straight out before you and wrap the band around your feet. Hold the handles with your palms facing each other and pull them toward your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Release back down. Do 3 sets of 12 reps.
  6. Leg curls: Wrap the band around your ankles and lie on your stomach with your legs straight out behind you. Bend your knees to curl your heels toward your butt, then lower them back down. Do 3 sets of 12 reps.

Cool-down

  • Seated spinal twist: 10 reps on each side
  • Chest opener stretch: 10 reps
  • Hip flexor stretch: 10 reps on each side

Weight Lifting with Dumbbells or Kettlebells

This can help improve your bone density, metabolism, and overall strength. Remember to start with lighter weights and gradually increase the weight as your fitness level improves.

a woman doing weight exercise

Example Routine:

Warm-Up

  • Jumping jacks: 1 minute
  • Arm circles: 10 reps forward and backward
  • Lunges: 10 reps on each leg
  • Squats: 10 reps

Weight Lifting Exercises

  1. Goblet squats: Hold a kettlebell with both hands at your chest, or hold a dumbbell in front of you with both hands. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and squat down as low as you can, keeping your chest up and your knees tracking over your toes. Push back up and repeat for 3 sets of 12 reps.
  2. Dumbbell bench press: Lie on a bench with your feet flat on the ground and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Bring the dumbbells to your chest, then press them up over your chest until your arms are straight. Lower them back down and repeat for 3 sets of 10 reps.
  3. Kettlebell swings: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a kettlebell in both hands. Hinge at your hips and swing the kettlebell back between your legs, then drive your hips forward to swing the kettlebell up to shoulder height. Repeat for 3 sets of 15 reps.
  4. Dumbbell rows: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in your right hand. Hinge forward at your hips and place your left hand on a bench or stable surface for support. Pull the dumbbell to your chest, squeeze your shoulder blade, and lower it back. Repeat for 3 sets of 10 reps on each side.
  5. Kettlebell goblet lunges: Hold a kettlebell with both hands at your chest or hold a dumbbell in front of you with both hands. Step forward with your right leg and lower your body until your right knee forms a 90-degree angle. Push back up and step back to the starting position. Do 3 sets of 12 reps on each leg.
  6. Dumbbell lateral raises: Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lift the dumbbells to the side, keeping your arms straight until they reach shoulder height. Lower them back down and repeat for three sets of 10 reps.

Cool-down

  • Standing quad stretch: 10 reps on each leg.
  • Wrist and forearm stretch: 10 reps on each arm.
  • Standing forward, bend 10 reps.

Flexibility and Balance Exercises

ExerciseLow ImpactCustomizabilityFriendliness to Prevent Health Conditions
YogaGenerally low impact, with modifications available for those with joint or mobility issues.HighImproves flexibility, balance, and stress management
PilatesGenerally low impact, with modifications available for those with joint or mobility issues.MediumBuilds core strength, improves posture and flexibility
Tai ChiYesHigh
Enhances balance, coordination, and stress reduction

Here are some great options to choose from for this routine:

Yoga

Yoga is a popular exercise routine for plus-size women because it’s gentle on the joints and involves a series of postures designed to stretch and strengthen muscles while focusing on breathing and mindfulness. Plus-size women can benefit greatly from yoga because it promotes self-awareness and body acceptance, boosting confidence and self-esteem.

a woman doing yoga's namaste pose with one leg

Example Routine

Warm-Up (5-10 minutes)

  • Start gently to warm your body and prepare for the main Yoga poses.
  • Begin with several sun salutations to get your blood flowing and increase your heart rate.
  • Perform stretching exercises like neck rolls, shoulder stretches, and side bends to loosen up your muscles.

Standing Poses (20-30 minutes)

  • Begin with the Mountain pose to establish your foundation and focus on breathing.
  • Move into the Warrior I pose to strengthen your legs and improve your balance.
  • Transition into the Triangle poses to stretch your hips, hamstrings, and spine.
  • Repeat the above sequence on the other side.

Seated Poses (20-30 minutes)

  • Start with the Seated Forward Bend pose for stretching your hamstrings and lower back.
  • Move into the Bound Angle pose to open your hips and improve flexibility.
  • Transition into the Boat poses to strengthen your core muscles.

Cool-Down (5-10 minutes)

  • Finish your Yoga routine with calming and restorative poses to relax your mind and body.
  • Perform the Corpse pose to release any tension in your body and promote relaxation.
  • Conclude with some gentle twists and forward bends to help you unwind.

Tips

  • Focus on your breath throughout the routine, taking deep inhales and exhales to help you relax and stay centered.
  • Use props like blocks and straps to help you get into and hold the poses comfortably.

Pilates

Pilates involves a series of controlled movements that target specific muscle groups, helping to tone and strengthen the body. Plus-size women who practice Pilates can improve their overall fitness level and reduce the risk of injury by strengthening the muscles that support the spine and joints.

a woman doing yoga outdoor

Example Routine:

Warm-Up (5-10 minutes)

  • Do some spine stretches like the Cat-Cow poses to improve flexibility and mobility in your back.

Core Exercises (20-30 minutes)

  • Start with the Hundred exercises to activate your core muscles and get your blood flowing.
  • Move into the Roll-Up exercise to strengthen your abs, back, and hip flexors.
  • Then move into a single-leg circle to work on your hips’ flexibility and balance.
  • Use the same steps previously for the other side of your leg.

Full Body Exercises (20-30 minutes)

  • Begin with the Pilates Push-Up exercise to work your chest, shoulders, triceps, and core muscles.
  • Move into the Swan exercise to strengthen your back, glutes, and hamstrings.
  • Transition into the Side Plank exercise to work your obliques, shoulders, and hips.

Cool-Down (5-10 minutes)

  • Perform the Child’s Pose to stretch your lower back and hips.
  • Conclude with the Spine Twist exercise to improve spinal mobility and release any tension in your body.

Tips

  • Focus on proper form and technique throughout the routine, engaging your core muscles and breathing deeply.
  • Start with beginner-level exercises and gradually progress to more challenging ones as you build strength and flexibility.
  • Use props like a Pilates ball or resistance band to add variety and intensity to your workout.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is a great exercise for plus-size women as it can be done standing or sitting, making it accessible for those with mobility issues. Moreover, plus-size women practicing Tai Chi can improve their balance, reduce stress and anxiety, and increase their overall well-being.

Example Routine:

Warm-Up (5-10 minutes)

  • Start with light stretching and breathing exercises to warm your muscles and focus your mind.
  • Take deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth, to help you relax and center yourself.

Main Workout (20-30 minutes)

  • Begin with basic Tai Chi movements, such as the “Grasp Sparrow’s Tail” and “Cloud Hands” postures, to loosen up your joints and improve your balance.
  • Move to more complex movements, such as the “Golden Rooster Stands on One Leg” and “Repulse Monkey” postures, to challenge your coordination and flexibility.
  • Focus on smooth, flowing movements and deep, controlled breathing to help you relax and reduce stress.
  • Repeat each posture several times before moving on to the next one, and try to maintain a slow and steady pace throughout the workout.

Cool-Down (5-10 minutes)

  • End with gentle stretching exercises to cool down your muscles and prevent soreness.
  • Focus on stretching your legs, back, and shoulders to release tension and improve flexibility.
  • Finish with some deep breathing exercises to help you relax and clear your mind.

Tips

  • Tai Chi can be done indoors or outdoors, and you can practice alone or in a group.
  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing that allows you to move freely.
  • Practice Tai Chi on a flat surface that provides good traction, such as a yoga mat or grassy area.
  • Focus on your breath and movements, and try clearing your mind of distracting thoughts.

Common Barriers to Exercise for Plus-size Women

While exercise can provide numerous physical and mental benefits, plus-size women may face unique barriers that make it difficult to start or maintain a routine.

Nonetheless, you can develop a successful routine that improves overall health and well-being by identifying these challenges and implementing strategies to overcome them.

Barrier to ExerciseStrategies for Overcoming
Body shamingSurround yourself with positive, supportive people who celebrate all body types. Focus on the physical and mental benefits of exercise rather than weight loss. Consider finding a body-positive fitness community or trainer.
Lack of access to appropriate workout clothes or equipmentLook for brands that specialize in plus-size activewear, or try shopping online. Consider wearing non-traditional workout clothes, such as yoga pants or leggings, which may be more comfortable and supportive.
Negative self-talkChallenge negative thoughts and reframe them in a positive way. Practice positive self-talk and mindfulness techniques to help shift your mindset. Focus on what your body can do rather than what it can’t.

We can create a more inclusive and supportive fitness culture by acknowledging and addressing the common barriers to exercise faced by plus-size women.

With the right mindset, resources, and community, everyone can reap the benefits of regular physical activity, regardless of size or shape.

Why Exercise is Important for Plus-Size Women

Exercise is important for everyone, regardless of size or shape. However, for plus-size women, exercise can be especially beneficial.

Not only can it help improve overall health and fitness, but it can also boost self-confidence and body positivity.

a man and woman on a stationary bike at the gym

Regular exercise can help improve cardiovascular health, increase muscle strength and flexibility, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Plus-size women may also find that exercise helps alleviate joint pain and improves mobility.

But exercise isn’t just about physical health. It can also have a positive impact on mental health. Exercise releases endorphins, which can help reduce stress and anxiety and improve mood.

For plus-size women who may feel self-conscious about their bodies, exercise can be a way to build self-confidence and improve body image.

Staying Motivated

Starting a workout routine can be tough, but sticking to it can be even tougher. Plus-size women may face unique challenges when it comes to staying motivated.

However, anyone can achieve their fitness goals with the right mindset and support. One of the challenges that plus-sized women may encounter is finding workouts that are enjoyable and sustainable.

It’s important to remember that there are many different types of exercise, and what works for one person may not work for another.

Experiment with different activities until you find something you truly enjoy, whether dancing, hiking, or swimming. This will help you stay motivated and committed to your routine.

Setting realistic goals is also key to staying motivated. Start with small, achievable goals and gradually work your way up.

Celebrate your progress along the way, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you experience setbacks. Remember that consistency is more important than perfection.

Wrapping Up

Exercise is essential to a healthy lifestyle; plus-size women should not feel excluded.

By choosing the right types of workouts, setting realistic goals, and overcoming common barriers, you can take control of your fitness journey and achieve the results you desire.

Moreover, it’s important to remember that everybody is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. Don’t be afraid to try new things and experiment with different workouts.

Nonetheless, whether you’re just starting your fitness journey or looking to take your workouts to the next level, remember that you are capable, strong, and deserving of a happy and healthy life.



Resources:

Studies

Organizations

Books

  • Big Fit Girl: Embrace the Body You Have” by Louise Green
  • The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love” by Sonya Renee Taylor
  • Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight” by Linda Bacon

Websites

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Maggie Walker
Maggie Walker

Certifications: Fashion Design (BA)
Education: School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Lives In: Chicago
Maggie has invaluable experience working in the fashion industry. Regarding fitting and clothing, only a select few can match up with her experience.
She oversees every aspect and has put her heart and soul into MadisonPlus.

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