Obesity affects more than half of all adults in all industrially developed countries, and the number is increasing every year. If you are one of them, you are in good company and in an area where I also move most of the time.
Nothing to be proud of, but also nothing that initially brings with it any consequence. So what does that mean when it comes to jogging when you’re overweight?
If you carry a few (or a few more) pounds too much with you and then utter the thought of going for a jog, you will immediately call the warning to the scene. Regardless of whether you are asked or not.
Even some doctors warn of the danger of jogging overload for overweight people. The joints would be too stressed and if you read a few (mostly very unreflective) reports on the Internet, you will quickly come to the conclusion that jogging is even dangerous to the health of overweight people.
But it is not that simple and correct, as you will soon find out.
Overweight jogging – an attempt at definition
The BMI (body mass index) is often used as a measure of obesity. The BMI shows the relationship between body weight and height. Not more but also not less. Even if the BMI is not entirely undisputed, it has prevailed.
If you want to determine your BMI, you will need a calculator:
BMI = Weight (in kg)
Size (in m) ²
If that is too complicated for you, take this calculator and calculate your value. If you have that, you can see how it is with you. The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a table from which BMI one speaks of being overweight.
BMI male BMI female
Underweight Under 20 Under 19
Normal weight 20-25 19 – 24
Obesity 26-30 25-30
Obesity 31 – 40 31 – 40
Severe obesity Over 41 Over 40
So from a BMI of 26 (men) and 25 (women) more, one speaks of being overweight.
Obviously, being overweight does not automatically mean fat or unsportsmanlike. One speaks then only of a slightly increased risk of various diseases (including diabetes or cardiovascular diseases). You can counteract this wonderfully with sport. So it doesn’t just depend on your weight, but on your overall constitution. There are very fit people in the realm of overweight and even in the realm of obesity.
For example, strength athletes quickly fall into the category, as my blogger colleague Jahn himself notes. Fitness is certainly not denied to them.
Up to what BMI can you jog?
And yet jogging cannot be unreservedly recommended for all overweight people. The higher you get into the obesity area (especially obesity II and above), other, more joint-friendly sports are recommended as a starting point. And your doctor will do it too, because if you are so overweight you should be treated by a doctor as the health risk increases immensely.
You should always keep in mind that with every step there is approximately 6 times the load of your body weight on your hips and joints and that needs to be prepared. Once you have accustomed your body to the coming loads with hiking, (Nordic) walking, cycling or swimming in combination with strength training, there is very little to be said for switching to jogging.
What influence does the BMI have on susceptibility to injury?
If you are too heavy and still jog, you inevitably ruin your joints. This is something you hear and read all the time. But not true. A current study (2020) by the University of Florida evaluated experienced recreational runners with regard to their susceptibility to injury in relation to obesity (i.e. a BMI> 30). 3
Movement analyzes were carried out in a research laboratory and it was actually found that the experienced recreational runners with obesity control the impact forces and stress rates better than the normal-weight recreational runners did. They adapt their running style to their weight and are even less prone to injuries.
A current European study that compared running-related knee injuries between runners with and without overweight fits in with this. The surprising result: the proportion of running-related knee injuries in overweight runners was even 13% lower than in normal-weight runners. But we’re talking about experienced hobby runners and not beginners. 2
Science is just wonderful, isn’t it?
Jogging if you are overweight – is that possible? Sure, of course! Here you can find out what you should pay attention to in order to have long-term jogging fun.
What do you have to consider in advance?
Now you’ve wiped the concerns away and you’re determined to get started now. Excellent! Nevertheless, I would like to give you two things in advance that you should be aware of.
Visit a doctor before starting
The higher your weight and the older you are, the more important it is to see a doctor before you start running. As a very rough guide, I would recommend it from a BMI of 30 and / or an age of 50. Do you have previous illnesses anyway?
The doctor will check your musculoskeletal system and you should get an exercise EKG. In this way, heart problems and asthma are recognized and your blood pressure is also checked.
You won’t go out without good running shoes
I know you might not like the statement, but what applies to every runner is especially true for those who are overweight: no jogging without advice on running shoes! You may feel uncomfortable going to a sports store and asking about it. Believe me, the salespeople there are used to it and it’s their job.
The heavier you are, the more important the shoe and its cushioning are. Things like foot position, height, your weight, your preferred running surface and much more play a role when it comes to choosing the right running shoe. Appearance and recommendations from friends or from the Internet, on the other hand, are completely irrelevant. It’s about the right running shoe for you and not for others.
No two feet are alike and in fact you don’t have to worry about anything in a specialist shop (not in a discounter). The running shoe industry is so advanced and so good that there are hardly any differences in quality. But some in terms of purpose and fit.
I know a running shoe is a real investment. It never goes below 100 €, and especially for beginners, 150 € and more are not uncommon. The investment is worth it for you, believe me. The right running shoe has a major impact on whether or not you will have long-term fun in running.
More information on running shoes .
3 training tips for overweight people
Training is finally starting. A little warning in advance. Most overweight novice runners put more strain on themselves than their normal-weight runners. The background is probably simply that one takes social standards as the basis and is clearly driven by comparison.
And it has been proven that this is exactly the reason why the incidence of injuries is higher in obese novice runners than in others. So the cause is not the weight itself, but the fact that you do not adapt your training to your weight. 1
Big mistake as you will see in the following.
Take your time – your body needs it
For beginners in particular, a relaxed running pace is simply not possible. As soon as you start running, your pulse rises and your muscles can use less oxygen.
The result – the call for the “oxygen tent”.
People who are overweight, in particular, need special mechanisms to build up their stamina. In all of my running plans this progressive increase in load (as the technical jargon is) taken into account.
The walking breaks included there ensure that you can be active for a certain amount of time (usually around 30 minutes) from the start. Later, the proportion of running is increased bit by bit, and only when you can run for 30 minutes at a time does the training duration increase bit by bit.
Gradually with this step, the first speed units follow and you will get better bit by bit, i.e. stronger and faster in terms of fitness. Since my increases in the plans are often very gentle, patience is required.
Patience, which your body needs, because the condition, i.e. the muscles of your heart, usually grows faster than the muscles in your legs. At least if you mainly run. If you want to speed up this process, only regular strength training will help.
Walking alone is not enough
If you follow a smart training plan, you will quickly make progress in terms of conditioning. Your muscles and joints take longer, we already had that.
More strength means more stability in the core and legs. Imbalances are also prevented, thus preventing typical runner injuries. If you have typical runner complaints such as knee, hip or calf pain, then you have either increased your training volume too quickly or neglected to build muscle.
In my experience, in most cases a combination of both causes applies. You can only prevent this through regular strength training and the heavier you are, the more important it is from day 1 of your running life.
Even if it’s something you may not like at all. I can absolutely tell you a thing or two about it …
Constancy is the key
Going for a run every few weeks doesn’t do any good. You will not get better and you will never get beyond beginner status. Sure, any movement is better than no movement, but a hike would be a better alternative here in terms of your health.
In order to really become a runner, you should consistently stay on the ball for at least two, or even three, months. That said, you should run three times a week. A realistic goal as a beginner runner, for example, is to be able to jog through your first 5 km in 3 months. In my free beginners running course you can achieve this in a great community of like-minded people.