Working with the Overweight Student

The past twenty years have shown a dramatic increase in the reported numbers of obese individuals, yet because obesity is not a direct cause of death, many consider it just unhealthy, not deadly. Nothing could be further from the truth. The increased risk for premature death associated with obesity (all causes) is 50 to 100% higher compared to normal weight individuals. Obesity increases the risk of the development of many disease states including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stoke, heart disease, gallbladder disease, certain types of cancer, respiratory problems, osteoarthritis and sleep apnea. This makes obesity the second leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. according to the National Institute of Health. To understand the full impact these statistics, let’s define obesity and examine the information more closely.
Defining Obesity


  1. I had a group of newbies in my class last night. They were all part of a weight-loss group, and most were new to exercise. Two were quite out-of-shape, with knee issues, and therefore no ability to come out of the saddle. Two were moderately out-of-shape, able to handle some of the standing movements. One was in decent shape, looking for a moderately challenging workout. This was an exciting opportunity for me. Challenging, but interesting, as I had to balance the needs of those looking for a good workout with those who were hoping to just make it through in one piece. I kept insisting that they work at their own pace, and stay in the saddle (except for regular blood-flow breaks, in which case they were to stop the pedals and then stand up). I threw out the profile I had planned, and just went with the flow, inserting standing movements whenever I felt they needed a break from sitting. Mostly, I played around with resistance and cadence, simulating (low to moderate) hills and (short) breakaways. I watched each member closely, making sure they weren’t pushing themselves too hard. I ended the class about 10 minutes earlier than planned; probably should have stopped sooner, but didn’t want those who were in decent shape to feel like they were missing out.

    All in all, the class went pretty well. They said they enjoyed themselves, and plan to return next week. I look forward to working with them and seeing their progress as the weeks go on. Thanks for this timely article – it will be a good reminder for me each time I encounter this group (or any other deconditioned people).

  2. Dixie –

    Thank you very much for this valuable information. Now that January is kicking up, more and more new members are coming into classes who may not be fit.

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