A member of the TD Fitness family recently asked me about some ideas to encourage loved ones to be more physically active. This question is one that many of us struggle with as overweight and obesity trends affect friends, family, and those we love.
Oftentimes, the decision to exercise has less to do with exercise itself and more to do with mental blocks, misinformation, or motivation. Some people have developed excuses. Others may not fully understand the benefit of exercise if they feel healthy and aren’t overweight. Finally, some lack motivation to improve their lifestyle.
Before we can help these individuals, we need to understand what it is that’s preventing them from being active. It could be apprehensiveness, embarrassment, a feeling of inadequacy, or fear of feeling out of place at the gym among other things. As a loved one who isn’t trained in the psychological aspects of behavioral change, the best we can do is to try and support them and help them through encouragement. Here are some tips…
- Listen to them. Don’t make what may already be a delicate issue even more intense by assuming you know the problem and the solution.
- Provide encouragement and positive feedback often. Praise them for small accomplishments as well as the bigger ones.
- Set the example. Those around you are more likely to begin a fitness program and stick with it if you do the same. Sometimes seeing your level of dedication may be all it takes to motivate them.
- Try exercise that doesn’t seem like exercise. Games and sports such as tennis or basketball can be fun as long as you aren’t too competitve.
- Start small. They can park a little farther from the entrance, get off the bus or subway one stop earlier, or take the stairs instead of the elevator. Even short walks for 20 minutes or less are a good start.
- Use familiar activities. Were they active in the past? If so, what did they enjoy? Using familiarity will help them feel more comfortable with getting back into fitness.
- Shell out the cash. Register for a fun race or event…or consider a gym membership or personal trainer. Sometimes the desire to get their money’s worth is enough to get them moving!
- When you offer choices, don’t include the “non-exercise” option. “Would you like to take a walk or go for a bike ride today?”
- Help them set goals and work toward them.
- Finally, keep the focus on future goals, not past failures.
We all want those close to us to be healthy. At times we may be responsible for helping loved ones reach their goals. Remember to remain patient and provide encouragement along the way to a healthier lifestyle.