I'm currently assisting my dad in losing a significant amount of weight. He's 60, 6'0", weighs 230lbs (104kg) and eats very healthily, maintaining a well balanced diet. The trouble is he doesn't exercise at all, but he has recently decided he wants to cut body fat, which is a big problem for him, and reach a goal weight of around 204-208lbs. I see a lot of similar questions about this sort of thing on the site, but none of them are very suited to his situation. He has some trouble supporting his weight on his wrists, so things like push-ups, burpees etc aren't really an option until he loses weight. Another thing I was worried about is that his family has a very slight history of heart problems, so I don't want him to have excess fat building up around his heart anyway. I was interested in finding him a cardio/circuits program that would help his lose weight quickly (his main motivation is his wedding anniversary holiday in 5 weeks time) and to reduce his overall body fat content. A lot of it is centred around his waist, with a stereotypical 'beer belly', but I fully understand there isn't a way to target that specifically. Any help would be appreciated. I'm a rower, so I train everyday, so motivating him to come with me isn't a problem.

  • Just going for a walk every day might be a good start. Walking has a relatively low impact on joints and isn't very intense, so it should be possible to keep it up for a good bit. An hour of normal walking burns ~300kcal, which isn't much, but it adds up. Maybe swimming and other aqua-activities are an option too.
    – user8119
    Aug 1, 2014 at 12:28
  • With that kind of difficulty with exercising, it'll be easiest for him to begin by eating less. Even a healthy diet can consist of too many calories. Aug 1, 2014 at 13:35
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    While the recommendations are good, there are a couple flags. The age, the family history, and the desire to lose 25 lbs in 5 weeks. All these add up to someone that is a candidate for a cardiac incident. I would highly recommend a physical before embarking on this.
    – JohnP
    Aug 1, 2014 at 16:42
  • He's never had any heart trouble himself @JohnP, and he doesn't specifically want to lose all the weight in those 5 weeks, it's a long term goal. I just wanted to know some cardio exercises (just general, like cycling or swimming) that would help Aug 1, 2014 at 21:02
  • I agree with @JohnP about a check-up before getting too vigorous. I would have him use a heart rate monitor to be safe. Even though he has never had heart trouble, his advancing age, family history, inactivity and central waistline fat contribute to cardiovascular risk factors. (If his waistline measures 40" or more it is considered central obesity which can contribute to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.) Berin's rec. to begin with diet and walking is wise. Aug 1, 2014 at 22:31

1 Answer 1


I think this is a case where some strength work on the machines can help your dad build up enough basic strength to support his weight to the point where he can do push-ups. The thing is he is going to have to start a bit slower and build up momentum from there. 60 isn't that old, but if he's completely detrained he will likely fatigue pretty quickly. For the goal of dropping about 25 lbs / 10-12 kg you're going to have the best bet to attack it on multiple fronts:

  • Diet. Eating healthy is the first part of the battle, but he needs to eat less if he wants to weigh less. Losing 1 lb / 0.5 kg a week would be a good pace.
  • Conditioning. A humble start like walking 20-30 minutes a day would be a very good start.
  • Strength Training. Since he's unable to do a lot of body-weight exercises at the moment, this is a good application of using the machines for lighter-than-body-weight work. This will also help improve his overall quality of life when he can get up and down at will without having to think about it.

The goal here isn't making an athlete, but helping him move more and move better. We also don't know how well he is going to adapt to exercise, or if he has any heart problems lingering. The way I'd have him progress would be:

  • Start diet and walking immediately
  • After a couple weeks, if he deals well with the walking, add in some light strength work.
  • Over the next few weeks, if he can hit body weight loads he can start body-weight training

The light strength training should have the following components:

  • Squat movement. Start with the leg press doing 3 sets of 5 reps and adding 5 lbs every time until he can leg press his body weight. After that he can progress to body-weight squats.
  • Pull or hip/hinge movement. These can be Romanian deadlifts with an empty bar, kettlebell swings, or back extensions (body weight)
  • Press movement. Start with the incline press machine, and use the same approach as the squat movement until he can press 70% of his body weight for a set of 5. That's roughly what would be needed to support push ups.

Once he can do the body weight movements, work on increasing reps with them and adding some variety to them. He will be pretty fit if he can hit 50 body weight squats, 30 push ups, and 50 back extensions all in the same day (with multiple sets). He'll also be able to move around pretty well.

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