As a fat person I’m used to people assuming what I can and can’t do because of my weight, but I truly believe that our big beautiful bodies are capable of many wonderful things as long as we set our minds to it!
But can a fat person be flexible?
Fat people are no less flexible than any other number on the scale. Regardless of weight, leading a sedentary lifestyle is what limits flexibility and causes tight muscles and connective tissue. But flexibility exercises can help larger folks that don’t have a full range of motion at certain joints.
Let’s explore the benefits the various flexibility exercises can offer us and the elastic capabilities of our glorious bodies!
Is There A Weight Limit To Flexibility?
I know how discouraging the world of exercise can be, and the persistent belief that our bodies are limited by our size, we might not be able to move mountains, but we can certainly climb them so why should flexibility be any different?
Being flexible is something everyone has the potential to expand and improve on, after all, elasticity is all about how much we can move the body around a joint. What truly affects a body’s potential for a full range of motion is a desk-bound and sedentary lifestyle, and both large and skinny folks can lead such lives.
How flexible a person is can differ from one individual to another, and it’s in no way affected by someone’s weight. People of all shapes and sizes can train their bodies and reach their preferable flexibility. If you’ve been less active, it’s natural to find some moves more difficult and regardless of your body type, you’ll feel rusty at first.
So, don’t be discouraged from starting flexibility exercises because your weight is not a limit and your body is perfectly capable of reaching its elastic potential!
Factors That Can (Actually) Limit Flexibility
While flexibility is something, we can all work on, and even though weight doesn’t really affect it, there are other factors that can. Danielle Haak conducted research and found that there are physiological factors that can affect one’s flexibility, and we’re not in control of them.
Factor 1: Age
As we get older, we tend to lose our flexibility, especially if we’re not using certain joints and muscles as much. Our chemistry changes as we grow older, and connective tissues like ligaments and cartilage can naturally wear and tear.
This of course doesn’t mean that we lose complete control of our body’s elasticity as we grow older. In fact, the research in the Journal of Aging found that “flexibility training interventions in older adults are often effective at increasing joint range of motion in various joints, and various functional outcomes can be improved.”
So, it’s never too late and flexibility activities can especially help us, larger people, as we get older!
Factor 2: Joint Structure
Our bodies are made up of different joints and some people have a higher range of motion than others which is most likely due to improved stretch tolerance. So, if you’ve been thinking that you’re very flexible despite your weight toss that thought because you’re not flexible despite your size, you’re simply a natural!
Factor 3: Muscle Mass
Sometimes muscles can get in the way of certain motions, which means that bulkier body parts can limit some positions, but there are ways of getting around them. With the right instructor, you can easily find alternatives that work for larger bodies, whether it’s muscle bulk or not.
Factor 4: Skeletal Structure
You can never tell how flexible a person is just by looking at them, and two different body types can have the same elasticity. However physical differences can create the illusion that one person is more flexible than the other.
For example, if a person has longer arms they’ll be able to touch their toes with more ease than a person with average-sized arms, so while they might have the same degree of elasticity in the muscle, their skeletal structure affects how they can use this flexibility.
Factor 5: Gender
Finally, women are naturally more flexible than men because women have a higher stretch tolerance. A study also found that there are distinct gender differences in the viscoelastic properties of a tendon that can impact flexibility and these properties favored stretching in women.
So, we big ladies basically have a natural advantage!
How Can Strength and Flexibility Activities Benefit Big Folks?
No matter the limitations and how inactive you might be at the moment exercising your flexibility, stretching, and allowing your body to reach its full elastic potential can truly benefit you physically and most importantly mentally!
In this day and age, I think everyone finds themselves spending hours on end in a seated position, the body is weight down by gravity, and stress, but by adding flexibility exercises into your life you can:
Improve Your Posture And Balance
Flexibility exercises will allow you to align and correct any imbalances, reduce falls and increase the range of sitting and standing positions. Working on your muscular flexibility is in a way an investment into a better posture and it will also help you withstand more physical stress, due to aging and a life of minimal mobility.
It can also help you maintain a more favorable posture and help you avoid waddling even if you’re carrying quite a bit of weight.
Reducing The Risk Of Injuries
With flexibility exercises, you’ll work on correcting muscle imbalances by strengthening the underactive muscles in your body and stretching the overactive muscles. With time your muscles will be less tense and become looser, which should help with possible injuries, chronic issues like arthritis, but you should also experience fewer aches, pains, and muscle cramps.
Boost Your Mood And Mental Relaxation
Being large shouldn’t stop us from enjoying a more flexible body, since not only will it help ease any muscle and joint lesions, but regular stretching and flexibility activities will help you reach a relaxed state of mind and add a positive spin to your life!
Increase Your Strength
As you work on your flexibility your muscles will also become stronger to support you and your growing range of movement. Of course, for every person flexibility exercises work differently, you’ll see a range of results, and that’s why it’s important to keep the focus on yourself and your own body, and only then your physical performance will become better.
How To Get Into Flexibility Training If You’re Fat?
There are plenty of exercise programs that focus on stretching, and flexibility, like yoga, pilates, and something milder like Tai-Chi. If you’re thinking of flexibility exercises as an introduction to physical activities, pre-exercise stretching is also great especially as a warm-up.
For a fat person, these activities can be beneficial, they can protect us from painful injuries, but most importantly they’re fun!
Choose The Perfect Flexibility Activity For Your Needs!
If you’re not sure if flexibility activities are for you let me give you a brief introduction.
One way of improving your flexibility is by doing stretching exercises. Stretching can help you work on the range of motion in your joints, keep the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, as well as improve your overall performance in other physical activities, even for something like ice skating.
If you’ve set your mind on stretching exercises, make sure to look for a facility that works for you. I always make sure to ask if the facilities are modified to accommodate fat people, and most importantly if their trainers are educated in plus-size positive stretches that will work for me.
I know there’s a lack of representation of bigger bodies in yoga, but don’t let this underrepresentation fool you, because not only is it possible to be fat and do yoga, but you can master it and even become a teacher.
People add yoga into their fitness routine to improve flexibility, balance and it offers strength-building benefits. The versatility of yoga poses will nurture your body, and it will also help relieve any anxiety or dark thoughts. A study done on 34 women diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, showed that participating in yoga classes twice a week in the span of only two months helped lower their levels of anxiety.
Yoga is also extremely easy to get into and while you can go to a studio you can also get started at home with YouTube videos like these:
Attaining flexibility is also possible through the ancient Chinese tradition of Tai Chi. I love Tai Chi for its non-competitive nature and its concentration on a self-paced system of gentle physical exercise and stretching. For larger bodies, it can be a great way of training muscles and joints with minimal stress. Tai Chi can also boost your upper and lower body flexibility and strength as well as the muscles of the back and abdomen.
I do suggest that you attend at least one Tai Chi class since it’s relatively inexpensive and there’s no special equipment. Once you get the basics of Tai Chi you can practice it anywhere you feel comfortable, indoors or outside, alone or in a group class. Most importantly it will help you find a physical and inner balance!
Pilates can also be a great exercise for us larger folks. Most importantly it’s beginners friendly and since it’s a low-impact activity it doesn’t require a high level of cardiovascular or muscular fitness to get started. This type of exercise focuses on smooth transitions between precise and slow, controlled movements, and it’s a combination of stretching and strengthening exercises that promote flexibility, mobility, and strength.
Pilates and Yoga combined can also help you achieve even better results since they both “focus on breath, alignment, balance, strength, and flexibility,” says Jennifer DeLuca the owner of a Pilates Gymnasium. “Strengthening your core in Pilates class will give you better balance in yoga; increasing your flexibility in yoga class will enable you to move bigger and deeper in Pilates,” she also adds.
Consider Hiring A Specialized Coach or Signing Up For Lessons
Once you’ve set your mind on what kind of flexibility exercises you want to try, your next step would be to research the perfect fitness center. I usually look for places that offer classes specifically for fat people, or that are fat inclusive. I promise you that entering a room where there are people that look like you and me will forever change your perception of group workouts.
Not only does it help your confidence as a newbie in the fitness world, but it also shows that the facilities offer essential equipment for larger bodies. Plus-size inclusive yoga classes usually have ballet bars and long straps hanging from hooks, and such weight supports help yogis stretch out their backs, hamstrings, and other muscles.
Before you sign up, make sure you call the instructor and ask them if they have experience working with bigger yogis, so they can offer you alternative poses and give you the pacing that you need.
I also understand that group classes are not for everyone, and luckily there are plenty of resources to which you can practice at home, like online classes specifically designed for bigger figures, or you could check HeavyWeight Yoga DVDs guided by Abby Lentz, and follow her Three A’s, “Awareness, Acceptance, and Affection!”
Forget Your Weight And Focus On Having Fun
I often feel that our large bodies can become the center of attention, especially in the world of exercise, and while this is a reality we face almost daily, I promise you that there are spaces where we can embrace physical activity without thinking of our weight.
Activities like yoga, pilates, and Tai Chi, are all about positivity and that should be the end goal of your flexibility journey. Remember to not push yourself too hard, instead take time to connect to your body, and mind. Breath in and out, relax and look for your own unique pace!
How To Figure Out Which Equipment Will Work For Your Weight?
Tai Chi is great since all you need is your body to be present, but other flexibility exercises could require some kind of equipment, and having the right one for you, can definitely help make the process more pleasant and as comfortable as possible.
Things You Need To Consider
Depending on the activity you’ll choose to engage in you might need to work with different equipment. This could simply mean asking the facility about their equipment and their weight limit or finding a good quality yoga mat, that might be longer or wider than the average.
You might not need to put the same amount of research into finding the perfect yoga mat as you would do with a bed mattress, but finding what mat works for you can greatly improve your experience. You can see my favorite yoga mat, the Clever Yoga mat, on Amazon by clicking here. It’s also worth taking a look at some of the Yoga kits they’re offering and don’t forget to check some of the reviews!
Whether it’s pilates, yoga, or pre-exercise stretching use props! It’s true that our bodies and our skeletal structure can limit some of our movement, that’s why these props come in handy. Use a yoga strap to achieve any stretch you struggle with and a yoga block to get the support you need!
If you’ve never used these props ask the instructor to demonstrate the best practices for using them, and if there’s a weight limit to certain equipment. Having this knowledge can help your confidence and attending a body-positive class will normalize their use.
I promise once you start using the right equipment and props your life will change for the better!
Things You Shouldn’t Worry About
Once you’ve decided on the right activity, and class the next step is to have fun! Forget about how you look, because everyone looks ridiculous when they’re stretching their bodies, but being ridiculous is part of the fun.
After the first few sessions, you’ll begin to understand your body. If my belly or my breasts get in my way I simply move them and continue on with my pose. If something doesn’t feel right don’t do it or ask your instructor for an alternative. Perhaps try a wider stance to find the kind of stability that supports your weight properly.
Flexibility exercises are truly all about being positive, having fun, and understanding that perfection isn’t everything and it should never be the point!
Legging, Shorts and Sports Bras, How To Pick The Best Ones?
Last but not least, we need to talk about clothes, specifically sports clothes that will work for heavy bodies. Comfort should be your number one priority because it will make the exercising experience so much better. There’s nothing worst than feeling the stabbing pain from your leggings. My number one squat-proof leggings are the Uoohal high waist yoga pants that also come in different colors and I might just get them all!
Being a full figure, finding the right bra especially a sports bra can be a full-on nightmare. What I want is a sports bra that will do all the heavy lifting and it won’t make me feel self-conscious, or afraid that one of them will slip out of its pocket.
And while I’m always on the lookout for a brand that can offer me the whole package, I found that the Fittin Racerback sports bra on Amazon is definitely fulfilling my sports bra fantasy.
I think it’s important to mention that just because we’re fat doesn’t mean we can’t show skin. I prefer doing yoga exercises in shorts and there’s nothing wrong with simply wearing a sports bra without a shirt on. So, don’t let anyone limit your clothing choices, you can be sexy, messy, or comfy as long as you feel good about yourself and you’re movements aren’t limited by your attire.
Do Fat People Have Any Advantages When It Comes To Flexibility?
Flexibility is different for everyone, and we all have our own natural elasticity, but most importantly fat people have the same potential for a full range of motion as any other body type. But between you and me there is a study that showed that fat people might actually have an advantage up their sleeve.
This study done in 2018 revealed that heavier people are better in strength exercises and that they “enjoy strength exercises more than normal-weight people, mediated by fat-free mass and muscle strength.”
This means that strength and flexibility activities could be more suitable for fat people, unlike aerobic classes which include exercises like running, swimming, or using cardio machines. For me, the enjoying factor is even more important because that’s what keeps my presence in classes like yoga and pilates consistent!
This also isn’t the only area where fat folks may have an advantage and we’ve seen something similar when it comes to other activities like surfing!
What Struggles Fat Folks Might Find During Flexibility Exercises?
“If you’re overweight or obese, you’re going to move slower, and the transition from one pose to the other takes more time,” says Abby Lentz, founder of the HeavyWeight Yoga that I’ve mentioned earlier. It takes time to understand your body, and its limits and the extra weight we’re carrying can make certain poses and stretches more difficult for beginners. “You have to be able to observe the pose and think, ‘I’m not doing that,’ and be OK with that,” Lentz says.
Finding the right community, and classes that support your needs can also prove hard, depending on where you live but don’t let that stop you from reaching your flexibility dreams. I think finding the perfect instructor and perfect group class is a bit like trying to find a therapist, you simply have to keep on looking until you find the right one for you and your needs.
Is Aerial Fitness A Possible Choice For A Fat Person?
If you’ve ever seen aerial fitness class in real life then you probably know how breathtaking it is to see human bodies float in the air, embraced by the soft silk. To be honest, it was hard to imagine my body among those floating figures, but I soon find out that aerial fitness is for everyone, no matter your fitness level, weight, and age.
But I don’t want to get ahead of myself, first I want to introduce you to the Aerial Arts and Yoga concept. Aerial yoga shares a lot of similarities with traditional yoga, only the weight of your body is held by a hammock. I think the best part of being held up in the air is the support the hammocks offer to your back and I find the whole experience easier on the joints.
Aerial Yoga can help you safely stretch your muscles and tendons and being suspended in the air will give you more space and the confidence to move freely, without feeling like you’re taking up too much room, a secret fear I think most fat people have.
Now I’ve also mentioned Aerial Arts which is also part of a diverse group of Aerial Fitness. Equally breathtaking, aerial arts are a type of dance. According to studies participation in aerial fitness of any kind, “beyond skill development, including performativity qualities in aerial practice (dancing, expressing emotion, story sharing) may be key to the love of movement and long-term exercise participation.”
So, If you have this longing for aerial arts or aerial yoga but you feel that your weight will get in the way, I’m telling you to shake this feeling off. Sign up for a class and spread your wings like the beautiful butterfly you are!
Fat Flexibility Goddesses You Need To Know About!
I spend a generous amount of my time looking for fun activities and exercises to occupy my body with and enjoy it in all its glory. This often has led me on different platforms where I felt underrepresented, but I decided to change the algorithm that was affecting my feed and I want to share with you some gorgeous ladies that are large and in charge as well as flexible!
Kanoagreene is a true Plus Size adventurer that can do literally anything! I love her Aerial Yoga tips and one that really stuck with me was “As a plus-size yogi, using a blanket, towel, or even rolling up an extra yoga mat to create a layer of cushioning between the silk and my hips has been a life-saver! At 280 lbs, that’s a lot of body being pressed and balanced into the silk and without cushioning there, it’s extremely uncomfortable and, at times, even painful.”
If you’re looking for the perfect Yogi to follow I truly recommend Laura Burns from radicalbodylove. Not only is she a teacher and an activist but she also wrote a book called Big & Bold: Yoga for the Plus-Size Woman and each page will let you know that your body can do everything, like be flexible and strong!
Finally, if you’re looking for something that will help you achieve your flexibility goals and feel sexy while you do it, pole dancing might be for you. I know what you’re thinking, first I talk about silk hammocks and now I’m talking about poles, but Rozethediva will prove all your thoughts wrong.
Pole dancing is available to all sizes and Rozthediva isn’t just a pole diva she is also a personal trainer that does coaching for plus-size dancers! What I truly want you to take from me and all these gorgeous women is that we can own our bodies in any form of fitness activity we want!
Fat people can be flexible, and they can be much more than that, they can teach other people to be more flexible!
Flexibility activities can seem like a steep path for beginners, so if you want to set yourself up for success make sure you find classes that represent your body, and that will help you embrace it.
You don’t have to become a certified yogi to enjoy yoga, you simply have to be present and give your body the stretch that it craves!