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Big Folks Sports and Activities FAQ

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Archive-name: fat-acceptance-faq/sports
Posting-Frequency: monthly to *.answers, bi-weekly to and
Last-modified: February 6, 1998
Version: 2.1

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
                  Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
               about Sports and Activities for Big Folks

This document contains information about exercise and fitness for fat
people. It includes information about various sports and activities,
and clothes and equipment for them, as they relate to fat people.

To make it clear, this is not a missive from the lifestyle police
trying to get all fat people to exercise, but a source of information
for the fat folks who do want to exercise.

If you don't find what you're looking for here, try one of the related
FAQs (see question B1 for a complete list). In particular, try the
Fitness Resources FAQ for a list of clothing, equipment et cetera.


Changes from Last Version

Rewrote the Aqua Aerobics section.



SECTION A:  FAQ about sports and activities for fat people

A1) Can a fat person *really* be fit?

A2) I want to start exercising, what do you recommend to get started?

A3) What specific information is there about fat people and

  A3-1)   Aerobics
  A3-2)   Aqua Aerobics
  A3-3)   Badminton
  A3-4)   Belly Dancing
  A3-5)   Caving
  A3-6)   Cycling
  A3-7)   Dancing
  A3-8)   Exercise Equipment
  A3-9)   Gardening
  A3-10)  Golf
  A3-11)  Health Clubs/Gyms
  A3-12)  Horse Riding
  A3-13)  Jogging
  A3-14)  Kayaking
  A3-15)  Martial Arts
  A3-16)  Scuba Diving
  A3-17)  Skating
  A3-18)  Skiing
  A3-19)  Stretching
  A3-20)  Surfing
  A3-21)  Swimming
  A3-22)  Tennis
  A3-23)  Videos
  A3-24)  Walking
  A3-25)  Weight Training
  A3-26)  White Water Rafting
  A3-27)  Yoga

SECTION B: Information about this FAQ

B1)     Are there other related FAQs?
B2)     Posting information
B3)     Availability of the FAQ
B4)     Contributors


SECTION A:  FAQ about sports and activities for fat people

A1) Can a fat person *really* be fit?

Yes, indeed. For example, look at sumo wrestlers, or the likes of
Geoff Capes (used to be holder of the title World's Strongest Man).

For the average fat person who is not competing at world-class
competition level, there is still a range of fitness that can be
achieved, from the very unfit to the very fit. Your maximum fitness
level might lead to lesser achievement relative to your bodyweight
than a thinner friend of similar fitness (eg your friend might run
100m more quickly than you), though this is hardly surprising as
most sports and exercises involve some form of body resistance.

But underneath, your muscles can be just as toned and efficient,
and your aerobic capacity just as great, and maybe if your
friend were to carry an appropriately heavy rucksack on their back,
you might beat them easily.

This leads to a quick retort if some instructor is giving you hassle
if you're being slow because of your weight:
"If you had to carry this around, I bet you'd do it in twice the
time I've taken".

Fitness can be measured in various ways. Aerobic capacity (how
well the lungs are working) is one of them, performance on various
set exercises is another. If you're being measured on some exercise
that is relative to bodyweight, bear in mind that you have more to do
than the thin person next to you, and don't expect unreasonable
things of yourself.


A2) I want to start exercising, what do you recommend to get started?

To get started, find something that you don't feel obligated to do,
but that you're interested in and that you can do, and that you
actually enjoy. Nothing puts you off faster than doing something you
dislike and feeling you have to do it.

Consider different types of activity. You could go for a sport, or
go for the exercise machines or videos, or maybe an activity such as
dancing or some other one that involves a high active component in it,
such as gardening. Find something that interests you. There are so
many different activities in the world, to choose from!

If you're lacking in motivation, you might find it helpful to set
yourself short term goals, e.g. measuring your activity and enjoyment
level. Or you might find it helpful to find a friend to do it with
you. Joining a club helps you find friends interested in the same

Take into account your personal health and history. For example, if
you have a history of back and/or knee problems, then kneeling down and
leaning over a flowerbed to do some weeding is perhaps not the best
thing for you to try. If you have any worries about how a particular
activity will affect your health, then consult your doctor. Doctors
are happy to help with such suggestions (and if you have a fat-phobic
doctor, it gets them delightedly off the subject of weight :-) ).

Also bear in mind that charts for energy consumption, recommended
exercises to try, suggested amounts of training etc, are often
constructed with someone of average weight in mind.


A3) What specific information is there about fat people and

  A3-1)   Aerobics

For aerobics videos, see the videos section.

For aerobic classes, you may wish to find either classes with large
instructors, or classes aiming specifically at aerobics for plus
sizes or a range of sizes. They do exist. See the Fitness Resources FAQ
for suggestions, or look for a local class.

Guidelines to bear in mind:
They say when doing aerobics you want to work at a brisk pace, but you
should be able to carry on a conversation while exercising. If not,
you're not getting enough air - and none of the benefit of the exercise,
so slow down. Be aware that some exercises have the potential to hurt
you, and are now blacklisted. Teachers need to know the latest guidelines,
so check the credentials of your trainers. If any move is uncomfortable,
pulls hard or hurts, stop immediately. There are always at least two other
exercises that could be substituted to work the same muscle group.

  A3-2)   Aqua Aerobics

Aqua Aerobics are aerobic exercises performed in water. There is
more emphasis on using the natural resistance of the water to exercise
the body. Also, the water helps support the body whilst moving;
there is none of the impact you get on body joints for usual aerobics, and
you can precisely tailor your work-out to yourself. The harder you push
against the water, the harder the water pushes back.

Also, you're in chest-high water. No-one can really see what you're doing
under there, so if you can't quite do all of the exercises, then there is
no need to be embarrassed.

Above all, though, it is FUN. You get to have a fun splashy time to
bouncy music,

If you are a woman who is large on top, then depending on the type
of exercises in the class and the depth of the water you stand in, you
may wish to wear a supportive bra underneath a swimsuit, or use a
supportive swimsuit.

Check out your local pool or health club to see if they have details
of classes near you.

You can also obtain equipment to make the most of your time in the
pool, such as water exercise dumbells. See the Fitness Resources FAQ.

  A3-3)   Badminton

Badminton places a lot of emphasis on good hand-eye coordination,
wrist action, quick reflexes and short quick dashes across the court.
So there is nothing intrinsic about the sport that hampers large
people, though of course dashing about the court will put more stress
on the joints of heavy people, so it might not be suitable for all
heavy people.

In fact, the people in the clubs in my county league have just as
many large people as I see in the population in general, and with
the same spread of abilities.

There are no equipment problems for badminton players, although they
share the difficulty with tennis players with having a scarcity of
attractive t-shirt/sports-shirt and skirt/shorts outfits in any sizes
larger than average.

  A3-4)   Belly Dancing

Also know as raq shari, this is very bold dancing for women (I don't have
any info for men, sorry!) which is unashamedly erotic. Skinny women
can do it, but having a full figure is much better, and indeed the
moves develop the stomach muscles so that women do end up with a little
pot belly if they didn't have one before.
The three top stars in Egypt today, Fifi Abdu, Nagwa Fouad
and Sohair Zaki, are all in their late forties or fifties and all
have very full womanly figures.

Check local information for a class near you. Obviously belly dancing
is known for skimpy Eastern costumes, but at your local class you
are much more likely to be wearing comfortable clothing such as
t-shirt and leggings.

A troupe of belly dancers in the USA is

The Fatimas
        Ronda Wood
        9302 Valley View Ave
        Whittier, CA  90602
        Work Phone:  310-693-1844

  A3-5)   Caving

Caving combines seeing the beauty (or mud!) of the underground world
with physical exertion and challenge. Going underground can be a cross
between a obstacle course, a multigym and an art gallery!

All the different muscle groups get used (in fact I guarantee each time
you go caving, the next day you will find a muscle aching that you
never knew you had!). Typical physical exertions underground are walking
along upright, clambering over boulders, crawling on hands and knees,
crawling flat-out, climbing, ascending/descending ladders, abseiling
or ascending a rope using some sort of ascending system.

There are plenty of large cavers about, and it is perfectly possible to
cave whether you are short or tall, thin or fat, though different body
types tend to have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Tall people tend to be able to reach handholds and footholds more easily.
Then again, in a small space, tall people's limbs sometimes get in the
way and the short people have an advantage.

Fat people have the advantages of staying warm more easily, extra padding
in case you bump into a rock, fat people float more easily, and if going
down a steep narrow section, fat thighs make very good friction brakes
against the sides.

Thin people have the obvious advantage that they can get through
smaller rock gaps, and as thin people weigh less, a lot less effort is
required to ascend (whichever method).

The main advantage of being fat is the warmth advantage, but the
physical limitations of not being able to get through a tight passage
and having to put in a greater amount of effort are significant
disadvantages. The most useful asset for a caver is a large
upper-body-strength to weight ratio, and many large people (particularly
women) have a low ratio. This limits in particular the length of
ladder one can climb.

When you go caving, you can always choose an appropriate cave. Caves
come in varying degrees of difficulty, and have different heights of
pitches (vertical drops), and their narrowest sections vary, as do
the difficulty of the passages. Ask a friend for a recommendation.

Useful techniques for the large caver:
You can do weight-training exercises to strength the upper body and arms.
Also important is a good ladder technique. When using electron ladders,
concentrate on letting your feet support your weight, and your arms
keeping you close into the ladder. To get the correct position, put
your arms crossed over the other side of the ladder (Tutankhamen style!)
with hands gripping onto the wire sides of the ladder. Make sure as you
climb that your arms are only providing horizontal force. The great
temptation is to use them to pull you up with, which will tire them very
quickly. You may find (particularly if you have large calves) that putting
feet either side of the ladder to climb, or both feet on the other side
of the ladder may prove useful.

Equipment for the large caver:
To get a sit harness that fits, you may well be able to ask the
manufacturer if they can make one with a little more adjustment to
it. For clothing, you can go caving in tough old clothes that you
don't mind getting torn and muddy, but if you are going to be in a
wet cave, you *need* a proper fleece/furry and oversuit that will keep
you warm when wet. Furries are heavier than fleeces when wet, so you
may wish to go for a fleece. Caving clothing goes up to reasonably
large sizes, as there are plenty of large male cavers with beer
bellies. You can get large female clothing, but you might end up
having to alter a large men's size.

Most importantly, if you're interested in caving, join a local club!
In the US these are called grottos. They can teach you safe techniques
and you will then have plenty of friends to go caving with.

  A3-6)   Cycling

Cycling is a great activity. Exercise combined with fresh air and
a changing view as we go past. In particular it's a good activity
for big folks, even super-size folks. There are plenty of avid
cyclists at 400lbs+ out there! When sitting on a bike, our weight is
evenly distributed between arms, back and seat. Although we are
sitting slightly forward, as long as we can breathe comfortably, we
are using major muscle groups so there is less concentrated strain on
any one particular area. The expended effort of pedalling and the
payoff of the gravity release when going downhill gives you the
sensation of flying - no wonder you hear about the biker's "high".

What sort of bike should I get?

You don't need a special bike, indeed many recommended weight limits
for bicycles go up to 250-300lbs, but you do need a sturdy one. Look
for strength rather than lightness of components. ATBs (all terrain
bikes, or mountain bikes) and hybrids are good. Test drive before
you buy!

Personally recommended brands include Cannondale M400, Trek Multi,
Specialized Hard Rock ATB. Ask your local store for their best-selling

One different (although expensive) sort of bike you may wish to consider
is a recumbent bicycle. It eliminates any discomfort of leaning over.
Many recumbents have wide comfortable seats, and they are easier on
the neck and wrists.

What things should I look for in bicycle components?

Many people recommend getting components that are designed for
tandems. Axle-hub combinations from tandems are good. Some mountain
bikes have oversized axles precisely to avoid axle breakage, for
example bullseye rear hubs, or ones made by Phil Wood.

Tandem wheels have at least 40 spokes, and the more spokes (and the more
the spokes are true and properly tight), the stronger the wheel. Make
sure your wheels have at least 32 spokes.

Make sure you get a bike that is the right size for you, and that
you can have the handelbars and seat heights adjusted to suit you.

Unless you're always going to ride along flat terrain, you need a
a third gear (granny) on the chain wheel to get you up hills easily.
Choose one with as few as few teeth as possible compared to the
largest rear wheel gear.

If you stand up a lot on your bike you might wish to get sturdy pedals,
preferably metal ones.

What sort of seat/saddle should I get?

Recommended seats include Vetta and Terry saddles.
Try a gel seat. Try a gel seat cover. You might even want to try a
special wider seat, actually 2 separate pads with independent tilting
action and large, foam cushioned pads. These fit on regular seat
supports (posts). Some bicycle stores sell these seats now, or you can
get them from Brookstone or Hanover House.

What can I do to make myself more comfortable?

Wear padded cycling shorts, or buy pads and put them where you need
them in your own bike shorts. You might also try tilting the seat
downwards a little.
As the hands partially support the bodyweight, you could try wearing
padded cycling gloves.

If you are topheavy, you might find riding in a bent-over
fully extended position very uncomfortable.  Get the tallest
handlebar stem possible, with the shortest and most steeply
angled handlebar attachment crosspiece.  If you still have to
bend over too far,  get raised BMX type handlebars (the kind
you see on kids' bikes).

Go for a low speed and pedal more. Don't push hard in a high gear, it's
too strenuous.

See the Fitness Resources FAQ for bicycle equipment and accessories.

  A3-7)   Dancing

There are many varied types of dancing, but you can even do this
in your own home. Put on some music that gets you moving, and
go to it! Nobody has to see you, and you can move the parts of your
body that you prefer.

A dance troupe in the UK is

The Roly Polys
        A British dance group composed of older, larger ladies,
        founded in 1980.  Four of the five are average height and
        about UK size 18-20.  The fifth, Big Mo (Mo Moreland) is 4'11"
        and UK size 28-30.  She's the "darling dumpling" of the Roly
        Polys.  She's also very fat-positive.

  A3-8)   Exercise Equipment

Many pieces of home exercise equipment are suitable for big folks,
though you should check the weight rating of the equipment.

Some people like ski machines, as they are easy on the knees.
Generally people tend to prefer low impact exercise machines with
a gentle full-body workout.

If you sweat a lot, as some fat folks do, be sure to drink lots of water
*while* you are working out. Don't wait until the end. Bring a water bottle
onto the machine with you.

If you're using a stationary bicycle, make sure the seat is comfortable
for you.

Some people find the Stairmaster is a good antidote for back soreness.
It keeps the back upright. You may find that as a fat person, as you're
lifting more weight than most people, you want to use the lowest levels.
You don't need to support your upper body by leaning on the rails with
your palms turned out. It may hurt, and it's counterproductive, as you're
then only working your legs and you might as well be on bicycle or a

Treadmills vary. You may wish to choose one with no bars on the sides, or
only on one side, as with the two-bar ones, you might hit your arms
on the bars as you walk. Some treadmills are poorly made and will creak
if a heavy person walks on them, but the well-made ones support several
hundred pounds with no difficulty. Walking on the treadmill is
low-impact. If you swing your arms, you'll get a more strenuous workout.
Holding onto the rail in front will be a less strenuous workout, but it
will stabilize your body and may help if you are experiencing some
soreness. By cranking the incline up to 10% or more, you can get an
aerobic workout that's just as good as running.

Some people like the Elliptical Crosstrainer. This is a cross between
a ski machine and a treadmill, except that your feet move in an arc
instead of in a horizontal line. The depth of the arc and the resistance
of the machine can be altered.

  A3-9)   Gardening

Gardening offers many different types of exercise, including digging,
mowing, weeding, planting, and can be very energetic. It also offers
the benefit that you get to see a beautiful garden at the end of the

You can get kneeling pads for when you want to kneel down, or you
can make your own ones that are as wide or soft as you like.

  A3-10)   Golf

Golf offers no particular problems for the large person.

Totes makes a big, sturdy, golf-umbrella sized umbrella called the
"City Slicker".  Large enough to keep almost anyone dry.

  A3-11)  Health Clubs/Gyms

Some people have had problems in the past with attitudes at gyms.
Visit a few to find one you like. If you're a woman, you might want
to try one for women only.

Two American recommendations are World Gym and Club Fit.

If you're into weight training, you might also consider a
hard-core body-building gym rather than a "yuppie" gym. Some
power lifters are fat, so fat people are not considered out of
place in a serious gym.

Another point to consider is that in the U.S., if you use a fairly new
health club, they must be ADA-compliant, which means they must accomodate
disabilities.  This means one shower will have a shower seat and detachable
shower head, which is better for washing between skin folds. It's something
to look for while touring health clubs.

  A3-12)  Horse Riding

Horse riding is a very enjoyable experience. It can be very liberating
to feel all that power between your legs. And horses have a wonderful

The question most frequently asked by big folks is

        "Will I be too heavy for the horse?"

The short answer is "maybe".

The long answer is that it depends on a lot of factors: your weight,
experience, the type of saddle you use, the horse's strength, age,
health, and how hard the horse is worked. As a rough guide, a horse
can carry about a quarter of its weight, a fifth with a novice rider.

Your weight:
There are large people (various weights up to 360+ lbs) on the newsgroup
who have ridden without problems. There are also people who gave up
riding when they became large enough for it to be a problem for their
horse (for example, one person was 300+ lbs at the time).

Your experience:
If you are a good rider, and know how to post, you will minimize the
chances of harming the horse. Novices tend to bounce around a lot
more, and this could possibly cause stress to the horse's kidneys.
A properly conditioned horse can handle a large experienced rider
pretty easily, but a novice of 350lbs sitting at a trot can do damage.
Also novices don't have the inner thigh muscles to grip effectively,
and once a large person is slightly off balance, it is more difficult
to regain balance.

The type of saddle:
If you ride English, this uses a small saddle, and posting is required.
However using a Western saddle, this spreads the rider's weight out
more, causing less stress to the horse. It also provides a handy grip
for novices. Check that your saddle fits - the length of thighs makes
more difference than weight, but large thighs or rears can make a
difference too.

The horse:
Horses are very strong creatures, and properly conditioned, can handle
a large rider easily. When you first feel the power in a horse, the first
time the horse decides not to do what you're telling him to do, you'll
realise what a light-weight you are :-)
The riding stables can help to select you an appropriate horse. Choose
one that is big, in good health, not too immature, reasonably quiet.
You may wish to consider a draft horse.

What level of activity you do:
If you're a novice, you probably won't want to go faster than a
walk at first anyway, until you get comfortable with the horse and
vice versa. At any rate, the gentler the activity, the less hard on
the horse. Walking, trail riding are great fun. Galloping and jumping
do put more strain on the horse if you are heavy.

You may wish to try a stable that is involved in therapeutic riding, as
they often have a wide variety of horses, plus mounting ramps for those
who have difficulty from the ground or a low block. They are also
more sensitive about differences than your average stable.

A good idea is to call ahead to the stable, saying what you weigh and
asking whether there is a suitable horse for you. They may well
appreciate you calling as then they can reserve one of the more strongly
built horses for you.

The organization Double XX Riders may be of interest (see the
Fitness Resources FAQ).

  A3-13)  Jogging

Fat people can and do jog or run. Jogging offers a great way to take
exercise in the fresh air, and you can do it on your own, without
needing any special equipment.

Jogging does however give the joints impact, and this is more
of an impact for heavier people, so jogging is not necessarily
for everyone.

Recommendations are to wear good supportive running shoes, and
to build up slowly.

  A3-14)  Kayaking

Kayaking is great fun! You can do it on inland lakes and rivers,
or you can go sea-kayaking.

There might potentially be a problem if you're pear shaped and
the kayak is decked (has a hole in the top that your thighs have
to fit through). Alternatively you can use an undecked kayak.
Canoes are undecked and more accomodating.

If you are worried about the weight the kayak can carry being a
limitation, use one that two people can go in.

It may be that a spray skirt would be useful if you're in a
rough sea, in that case put the skirt on before getting into the
boat, then attach it.

You may be worried about if the kayak capsizes and you get stuck
in it. The most important thing is do *not* panic. You have more
time than you think. Most people can hold their breath for at least
30 seconds, and most wet exits take less than 5.

A technique you may find useful is once you're upside down, rotate
yourself about the axis from neck to toe, so that your legs are
still in the kayak at the same end, but your torso has now turned
round so that your face is now facing the rear deck of the kayak.
Then you just crawl out of the cockpit along the rear deck and
your lifejacket will take you to the surface.

The first time you attempt a wet exit, have a practice in
waist deep water with someone standing next to you. Arrange a signal
that if you get stuck you'll pound on the hull and they'll lift you up
(rotate the kayak) so you can breathe.

Check out for more information.

  A3-15)  Martial Arts

Martial Arts are suitable for all body types,. In some arts like
Sumo, size is important, but this is an unusual exception.

A good instructor will adjust the training to match the student's
physical attributes, e.g. while a light person might be told to
work speed, a heavy person might be told to work leverage.

If you are comtemplating getting involved in a martial art, check
out the rec.martial-arts FAQs. They have descriptions of the
various types of moves involved in the different martial arts, so
you can see which moves you would prefer your body to be involved in.

Some particular martial arts that have been recommended are
Tai Chi (good for fat people because it's weight bearing, low impact
and concentrates on flexibility and balance), Tae Kwon Do (good
for tall folks) and Wing Chun (good for short folks), Aikido.

Some WWW pages to check out are

Isshin-Ryu Karate:

World-Wide Martial Arts Supply:

  A3-16)  Scuba Diving

Scuba diving is good fun! It's also relatively easy to have
a great time whilst being safe. However, like any other sport that
uses life-support gear, make sure you take training to get certified,
before you go, and make sure you are under the instruction of a properly
trained instructor. It's an active sport, using up lots of energy, so having
a reasonable level of fitness is useful, particularly aerobic fitness, as
the more air you use, the shorter your dive is.

Ample Opportunity (listed in the organizations FAQ) recently held a
scuba class for fat women, with fantastic success.  They checked out
the various scuba shops for fat-accepting attitudes and found a very
accomodating shop.  The shop answered all their questions that dealt
with fat and scuba and never left folks feeling embarrassed or bad.
Many of the instructors were large folks.  The instructors suggested
that folks rely on the conservative end of the diving tables, but said
they in their experience, fat students didn't have any more problems
than other folks.

Everyone that dives will probably wear weights, large folks may however
wear a few more more to counteract the extra buoyancy from size.

On very small boats with flimsy ladders, large folks may have some
difficulty getting into the boat.  If you encounter this problem, hand
your gear up to the folks in the boat, and then rock up and down in
the water to get some height, so the crew can help pull you up.  This
should not be a problem on larger boats.

As far as equipment goes, you should be able to cut extensions on the
belts so that they fasten around a larger person.  Finding scuba suits
in large sizes is difficult, and you do need a suit that fits: a suit that
is too small will restrict your movement and make it more difficult to
breathe. Also, don't have a suit that is too large, otherwise the warm can
flow through more quickly and you'll get cold. You can dive in warm water
without a suit.  Apparently one place makes lycra suits (suitable for warm
water) up to size 3X.  You can have wet or dry suits custom made,
though they are not cheap (about $200).

  A3-17)  Skating

Skating, whether ice-skating, rollerskating or in-line skating
(rollerblading) is a wonderful way to glide around.
It's also low impact (if you stay on your feet :-) ), and easy on
the knees and ankles.

If you have problems fitting your boots on, what with large calves
and ankles, you might try shopping around for different brands,
or you could try buying lace-ups as opposed to the buckled variety.
Also try out the selection for men, they tend to be wider-fitting.

For pads, if you have difficulty finding ones large enough to fit,
you could try buying regular knee-pads and then sewing on some
strips of Velcro yourself.

As the ankles of a heavy person have to support more weight, if
you have problems in this direction you might try some exercises
for ankle-strengthening.

One recommendation from a roller-blader is that you do inner thigh
and calf stretches afterwards.

  A3-18)  Skiing

The feel of the wind in your face as you fly downhill on a pair of skis
is fantastic.  The first few days on skis, though, you're more likely to
spend a lot of your time on the ground trying to get up again than
experiencing the flying feeling.  This is the same for everyone, not
just fat people and everyone should be prepared for it when they start
out. It's advisable to learn on a real snow ski slope as the snow is softer
to land on than the dry slope version.

The most important thing when learning is to gain a sense of balance and
fat people tend to have more established centres of gravity which enable
them to do this more easily. Also, people with long gangly limbs are
more likely to get them tangled up than those with fat limbs.

If you are not very good at getting into an upright position from
sitting/lying on the floor then you may have problems getting up
unaided after you have fallen.
Falling seems to be a fact of life when first learning to ski or when
trying to advance to another level.  It can be especially troublesome
because the techniques that ski instructors teach to get up after a fall
simply don't work for fat folks, unless you are unusually flexible
or are on an extremely steep hill.  The simple answer is to remove one
ski, stand up, and put the ski back on.  It is easiest to put your ski back
on if you make the loose ski the uphill ski as you stand across the fall
line.  Don't let ski instructors bully you because this takes a bit longer
than what they teach.

What clothing do I wear?

The main thing is to be comfortable all day, no matter what the weather.
Wear lots of thin, soft layers underneath and a waterproof layer on top.
DON'T wear jeans - they WILL get wet no matter what and will chafe.
Jogging pants or leggings underneath a pair of waterproof trousers will
be more comfortable. Wear clothes which are comfortable to bend in and
won't constrict you.

Wear a knee-high pair of socks with no rolls or seams where they will be
inside your boots. Don't wear trousers tucked into boots as this creates
friction along seams.

You also need waterproof gloves, hat or ear protection, sunglasses or
goggles, balaclava, scarf, and extra thermals if necessary.

What equipment do I need?

The length and type of ski depends on your ability, style, and height,
but not your weight. It's easier to start learning on short skis.

It's also important that the bindings should be adjusted to match your
weight and ability. If your bindings are set too low for your weight
then you may pop out of them unnecessarily.  It is usually quite easy
to tell if your bindings are releasing too early as they will release
when you try to make a normal manoeuvre, rather than when you've twisted
a leg into the wrong position.

Hire shops tend to process customers as quickly as possible.  If you
feel that your bindings may be set incorrectly you can ask your
instructor if they can help (many carry the necessary screwdriver to
make the adjustments) or take them back to the shop and ask to have them
adjusted for you properly.  This should involve you standing in your
boots in the bindings and them testing the pressure in some way.  (A
sideways kick to release the toe grip and asking you to step forward out
of the rear binding whilst they stand on the rear of the ski is one set
of crude tests.)

Boots have to be as comfortable as possible and often are not.
Fat people sometimes have the problem of boots not fastening around
the calf and being too narrow in the foot. If your feet are larger
than a 10 women's (US size), you will have to wear a man's boot.  Men's
boots always have smaller calf fit. Do try different brands,
as they vary quite considerably. Typically, Saloman's are often narrow
in fit, Nordica's are often wider, and Lange's tend to be small in
calf size, but have good instep height. For boots that don't fasten around the
calf, extension loops to fit certain types of boots can be purchased at
most ski shops.

If a boot is too narrow this is tricky. Some more expensive boots have
more adjustments including pads which can be adjusted to push in to fit
around your foot to prevent it sliding around.  If you are hiring it may
be worth investigating the cost of hiring a more expensive pair of boots
to get this extra adjustment.

Rear entry boots are the most common boots that beginning/intermediate
skiers use.  This is slowly changing as rear entry boots fall out of favor
and technology continues to improve comfort in front-entry boots.
Rear entry boots can be made to fit larger calves by replacing the
existing cable with a longer one.  A custom boot fitter is the best source
for this.  If you don't live in an area with ski boot fitters, most major
ski areas in North America have one on staff.  Or, ask at the ski patrol
office who they use.  Boot fitters are accustomed to working with ski
tourists who are on a tight schedule.

Front and mid-entry boots are the choice for high-intermediates/experts.
They offer more control, though often at a loss of comfort and/or warmth.
At a glance, these boots do not look customizable for large calves.
However, a good boot fitter can do it.

Boot fitting is included free if you purchase your boots from the fitter
(at full retail).  The benefit is that fitters usually offer a lifetime
fit warranty -- including calf fit.  If you buy your boots elsewhere, fitting
and customization is done for a fee, but it is always worth it.  If you
rent your gear you will most likely get rear-entries, some rental shops
(particularly those at the resorts themselves) have the longer cables.
If you enjoy skiing a lot and want to advance, I would recommend having ski
orthotics made by the fitter.  They can be moved to your next boots and
reused. Note:  these are entirely different than orthotics made by

Another option is to have custom boots made.  This is especially useful if
you have very wide or long feet. It is not as prohibitively expensive as it
sounds.  DaleBoot USA (pronounced Dah-leh) in Salt Lake City will assemble
custom boots for your feet and lower legs in sizes up to 16 mens'.  For about
20% more they can make foam injected boots, which are moulded specifically for
your own feet.  The foam-injected customs cost about the same as a mid-upper
priced boot.  All DaleBoots have a lifetime (of the boot) full-money back
guarantee.  They are infrequently rated by the ski magazines because they
are custom, but are excellent boots.

For sticks, there are no special issues relating to weight.

In recent years a new style of skis has come out that offers some real
benefits to heavy skiers.  This is the style family of "fat" skis (yes,
this is the commonly-used name).  Within this group are: super-fat (look as
wide as water skis), mid-fat, and wasp-waist or hour-glass skis.  The major
benefit these skis offer is flotation for heavier skiers in powder snow or
cut-up crud.  Some skiers are even opting to replace their all-mountain skis
with mid-fat or wasp-waist skis.  (The super-fats are really best used as a
fun accessory ski.) These skis tend to be much shorter (up to 40 cm shorter than
what you'd normally ski on) and put less stress on your knees and hips.
They are great confidence builders.

Most major manufacturers now make them.  They are variously known as
"Chubbs" (Volant), "Fat Boys" (Atomic), "Wide Glides" (Evolution),
"Big Kahunas" (K2), etc.  They are definitely worth a try (be sure to demo or
rent to try them out before you buy).

Check out the rec.skiing FAQ, which can be found at

      ftp:  /pub/ski/skiFAQ

  A3-19)  Stretching

There are a lot of different stretching exercises, for stretching
different muscles of the body. The usual aim of stretching exercises
are to gently stretch the muscles to warm them up or wind them down.
The positions are of the "stretch and hold" in a stationary position,
rather than "bouncing" the muscles.

As a fat person, or as a person who has a slightly different shape
(for example, long or short arms), you may find that you can't do
some of the movements as pictured. What to do is to use common sense
and some knowledge of the body to find other ways to stretch the
area in question.

Quad stretch:
One exercise to stretch the quads (some of the muscles in the thighs)
is to grab your ankle from behind and pull up. Some fat folks have
problems with grabbing the ankle, because they can't reach. One possible
solution is to grab the ankle from a sitting position on the floor, and
then lie on one side to stretch. Another way to grab the ankle from
a standing position is to use a wall behind you: put the foot you intend
to grab on the wall behind you, then use the friction of the wall to
help lift your leg relative to your hand grabbing the ankle, as you
lower yourself slightly by bending the leg you're standing on.

Inner thigh stretch:
A standard way to do this is with one knee forward, other leg back,
hands outside feet, however you may find that the legs squish against
the stomach. One way to try to get round this is to put just one hand
on the ground, the other keeping the leg parallel.

The exercise involving sitting on the floor, leaning forward and holding
onto the toes might be difficult, as the tummy can get in the way.
Try instead sitting on the floor, legs apart, doing one leg at a time.
That way, the stomach has space in the direction of the floor.

Use common sense. Don't twist joints such as knees into strange positions,
try to keep them parallel. Don't compress your belly so that you can't
breathe. Don't push yourself to assume positions that don't feel right to

An excellent web site that tells you all you ever need to know about stretching
(and more!) is

  A3-20)  Surfing

Surfing is terrific fun!

See the Scuba section for comments about wetsuits.

Unfortunately, no more info as yet except to say that yes, fat
folks can and do surf!

  A3-21)  Swimming

Swimming is a good exercise, particularly for large folks and
pregnant women. The water supports the bodyweight gently, and
provides a resistance for working all sorts of muscle groups.
Also, you don't get all hot and sweaty!

If you have problems getting out of your own pool, you can get
weighted plastic steps, or arrange a ramp to help.

Personally, I recommend swimming nude in the sea off a nudist beach
with golden sands and deep blue-green sea, for a truly wonderful

You might also be interested in the organization Making Waves (look
in the organizations section)

  A3-22)  Tennis

People of all shapes, sizes and ages can play tennis. Emphasis
is mostly on hand-eye coordination and some arm strength, though
being able to move about the court and having some power help a
great deal as well!

Specifically relevant to fat people are the following points.

You may find that you have a preference as to which surface you
play on. Common surfaces in use are grass, artificial grass,
cement, clay, shale.

Some people find that being heavy makes them slip and slide less
on shale (clay with a scattering of very fine red gritty stuff on
the top). Also, if you're turning to go for a shot, as the shale is
loose, it turns with you, whereas surfaces like artifical grass
which provide more friction also provide more resistance to you as
you turn, thus helping you to pull a tendon or similar.
Then again, if you're a player that falls over frequently, you
might just want a surface with a nice soft landing.

If your thighs rub together and you're wearing very short shorts
or a tennis skirt or dress, you might get friction rubs on your
inner thighs. One way to avoid this is by wearing cycling shorts
or leggings or longer shorts.

Clothing can be whatever you usually wear as exercise wear, but
if you're trying to get hold of smart tennis whites with a
matching t-shirt/sports-shirt and skirt/shorts, then unfortunately
those seem to be very scarce for anyone over average size.

If you're playing in a tennis match that goes on for several sets, or
you're playing in some other long session that it's not easy to get
a drink in the middle of, then take a water bottle with you and use
it frequently to keep hydrated, particularly if it's a hot day.

  A3-23)  Videos

Some exercise videos have a lot of impact aerobics on, which may not
be the best thing for a heavy person, as that puts more strain on the
joints. Choose a video that is right for you. Some videos suitable for
older people might be appropriate. You might also want to ask your
doctor for a recommendation for a good video for you.

See the Fitness Resources FAQ for some available videos.

  A3-24)  Walking

Walking doesn't provide any problems for the fat person. The key
is to make sure you're comfortable. Make sure your boots fit,
your trousers won't chafe, and you've got good socks on.

Tip for breaking in boots - wear them on a hot day, walk through a
stream (get water inside them) and let them dry out on your feet if
possible - same as shrink-to-fit jeans I guess.

Some people recommend Thorlo socks.

Shoes recommended by some big folks include:
Natural Sport Cradle, Reeboks, Turntecs, Nikes, Nike Airs, Rockports,
Propets, San Antonio Shoes.

A lot of people recommend good running shoes or cross trainers, not
necessarily walking shoes. It also depends on the sort of walking
you're doing (hiking or shopping expeditions). Also some people like
the ones with air cushioning in the heel. Make sure you get shoes
that fit. If you have wide feet and you're female, some of the shoes
for men have wider fittings.

If you suffer from back pain, and this is sometimes brought on by
walking and having to support a large tummy, then you may wish to
get some suitable exercises from a physical therapist, both to strengthen
the back and abdominal muscles, and for stretching before walking.

  A3-25)  Weight Training

Weight training is an activity that anyone can get involved in, and
fat folks do tend to be good at it, after all we do have natural
weight built in! Some doctors will tell you that you are putting
stress on your body by being heavy, and telling you to lose weight,
but another way to take the stress off is by making your body stronger
so it can cope with it better. Weight training is good for this.

Also, fat folks have an easier time with this sort of equipment than
with some others, as many bodybuilders weigh up to 300lbs (21 stone, 136 kg),
and the equipment can cope with large sizes.

Take care when choosing what exercises to do.
Some exercises involve toning the muscles using the resistance of
the weights of a machine. Others involve using the human body itself
for resistance. The latter type of exercise might or might not be
suitable for heavy folks. Check the recommendations of the particular
machine or weights that you're using. If in doubt, ask your doctor
to check if a particular type of exercise is suitable for you, or
ask your doctor to recommend an alternative one to exercise a
particular muscle group.

Sometimes there are minor problems with equipment, such as belts
being too small, or equipment being difficult to climb in or out of.
There are often different ways of doing an exercise, so if one
doesn't work, don't worry, try another piece of equipment.

If you are just taking up weight training, then do either read up
on the proper way to do the exercises, or hire a personal trainer
(one that does not pressure about weightloss) to make sure that you are
doing the exercises correctly. If you do them improperly, it can
cause injury.

  A3-26)  White Water Rafting

White water rafting is very exhilarating and incredible fun!
Be prepared to use a lot of upper body strength to paddle.
Paddling may give you sore arms if you're not used to it, and/or you may
get blisters.

Check the life vest to make sure that it is adjustable. You don't want the
vest to fall off if you fall out! Many big folks who have done this have
found the life vest to fit, but be a bit snug (but that's ok because it's
supposed to be snug). Big folks may also wish to sit in the back of the raft
for stabilization purposes. Weight distribution can make a significant

Pay attention to the safety instructions you are given.
You may wish to wear old sports shoes that won't matter if they get wet.
Depending on the venue, as most whitewater is cold (snow runoff), you
may have to wear a wetsuit. It can be a problem finding large size
wetsuits, if they don't have a suit big enough. See the section on
Scuba Diving.

Also check to see if the route requires carrying the raft. This may be
over some narrow, rocky, hilly trails and your fitness needs to be up
to it. Check the ratings of the rapids (rapids are rated from Class 1 to
5). Class 4 are usually the largest you can navigate in a raft, and you
*will* get drenched. Don't bring anything that can't get wet!
A suggested first trip could be a half-day trip with Class III rapids.

  A3-27)  Yoga

Yoga is a good alternative to more rigorous aerobic activity and
a good stress-reliever. Stretching, breathing and relaxation are the
essence of the movements.

A good teacher will welcome large people as well as small, emphasize
that all bodies are different, and insist that you _not_ do any exercise
that hurts.

If you sometimes have problems with your tummy getting in the way,
one suggestion for the forward bend from the Indian (American)
sitting is to put the soles of your feet together, rather than crossing
your legs, hold your ankles, and pull yourself down. That leaves a space
for your tummy.

Gentle Yoga by Naomi is a good videotape (see the Videos section).
You can also get it through the Ample Shopper Catalogue.
Also see Mara Nesbitt in the Fitness Resources FAQ.


SECTION B: Information about this FAQ

B1)     Are there other related FAQs?

Yes. The list of them below can be found from the following page:

        information about clothing for large people in Canada
        information about clothing for large people in Europe
        (excluding the United Kingdom)
        information about clothing for large people in the UK
        information about clothing for large people in the U.S.
        information about health issues affecting large people
        information about research concerning large people
        information about large-size maternity resources
        information about research concerning large people
        information about resources for fitness for large people
        information about organizations for large people
        information about resources for large people (that aren't
        covered in the other resources FAQs)
        information about resources for dealing with the physical
        aspects of being large
        information about publications for large people
        information about size-acceptance
        general information file for

There is some overlap in the topics covered by the FAQs. If you don't
find what you're looking for here, try the other FAQs.


B2)     Posting information

This document is posted monthly to news.answers and alt.answers and
posted bi-weekly to and
Sharon Curtis ( maintains this FAQ.


B3)     Availability of the FAQ

All FAQs posted to news.answers are archived at and its
mirror sites. You can get any of these FAQs from via
anonymous FTP or via the mail archive server.  (To get information
about the mail server, send email to with the
body of the message containing the word "help", without the quotes.)
FAQs posted to news.answers are also available on the Web from:

You can find the old version of the fitness FAQ at the following URLs:

although the latest version specifically adapted for HTML and maintained
by the maintainer can be found at


B4)     Contributors

These are the people who contribute significant chunks to the FAQ.

Sharon Curtis           (
Sasha Wood              (
Sheena MacKenzie        (
Helen Lovisek           (bh868@TorFree.Net)
Stef                    (

Also, lots and lots of other people (too many to credit) contributed
information that appears herein, some via email and some on s.s.f-a or
a.s.b-f.  Thanks to them all.

Suggestions for additions/improvements are always welcome.

Copyright 1995 by Sharon Curtis (
Permission is granted to copy and redistribute this article in its
entirety for non-commercial use provided that this copyright notice is
not removed or altered.  No portion of this work may be sold, either
by itself or as part of a larger work, without the express written
permission of the author; this restriction covers all publication
media, including (but not limited to) CD-ROM.

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