My husband recently lost more than 50 pounds and got himself back into shape. He just completed the Boulder Half Iron man. He posts many of his fitness commitments on facebook and recently received a message from an old friend seeking advice. This man has 6 herniated discs, two knees that are shot from playing basketball, and a torn left rotator cuff. He will have surgery on the rotator cuff next year, but has no treatment plan for the disc issue. He cannot lift weights or run due to these issues. He weighs almost 300 pounds. According to him, he does not overeat but has been on prednisone (which is notorious for causing weight gain). He reached out because he feels stuck and helpless. My husband referred him to me, and I gave the following advice:
Your first goal should be to lose weight, because that will take pressure off your back and knees. Most people do not lose weight by exercising alone. In fact, dietary changes will lead to the most dramatic weight loss initially. Your current weight (of 290) means you are probably burning in excess of 3,000 calories per day to just survive (heart beat, digestion, walking around etc.). If you trim your intake to 2,000 calories, you can lose a couple pounds, safely, per week. A diet of whole grains, lean proteins and leafy green vegetables is best – skip the fads and stay away from processed foods, alcohol, soda, sugary sweets and junk. You can eat well with 2,000 calories per day.
As for exercise, stay away from Pilates and generic gym-yoga which could aggravate your disc issues. Yoga could help with core strength, but seek out a provider with expertise in back issues. For strength training, you could use elastic resistance (resistance tubing) to build muscle tone – it weighs next to nothing, but studies show it can be as effective as pumping iron (unless you want to become a bodybuilder). Cycling, elliptical training and the pool are good low-impact cardio options to help you burn calories. Be wary in cycling, however – upright bikes might aggravate your back condition.