Getting Folks Back to Exercise
Our loved ones often resist exercise because they don’t understand that exercise is the means to retaining independence. Here’s how to convince them otherwise.
How do you convince a stubborn grandpa to go to the gym? My 79-year-old dad sits around all day watching TV. Every doctor’s appointment is a conversation about how physical activity would make a huge difference. I keep telling him that the gym I go to has great programs for people his age, but he just huffs and says he doesn’t need it. Then he gets mad because I said "people his age."
But it’s the cutest class, and I’m sure it wouldn’t be too hard for him. They just sit and follow the instructors from their seats. He might even make new friends. But no, the gym’s not for him. Any ideas how I can help him get active?
Without getting involved in your personal tiffs with your dad, suffice it to say that you are correct, your dad should heed his doctor and get active. That doesn’t mean that he has to join the class at the gym. With a little creativity and planning, you can inspire him to begin getting fit from the comfort of his own home, and without purchasing expensive equipment.
But before you try to tell him what to do (dads rarely like that), don’t forget the power of changing hearts and minds. To get him moving, his mind must be directed toward the need for exercise.
Exercise has many great effects he can surely appreciate. It can help improve his mood, maintain his independence with activities of daily living, and reduce the incidence of chronic disease.
Rather than make this a confrontational issue that drives him away from you, perhaps you could approach this from a more relational angle. "Dad, will you walk to the mailbox with me? I want to show you something," is a great way to get him on his feet and at least moving. He has to start somewhere, and it’s possible he’s intimidated by the thought of the gym. Many people are.
There are many ways to get the same benefits of exercise in other settings besides the gym. What matters is movement and a safe heart rate increase. Once your dad grasps the importance of becoming healthy by considering how illness or injury can strip him of independence, you can progress to helping him set up an exercise plan.
An example would be riding his bike (stationary or mobile) or going for regular walks. Especially if you take time to join him, this can be something he begins to look forward to, rather than dreading an unfamiliar gym filled with buff athletes who make him feel even worse about himself.
To begin his workout schedule, you can plan for:
Start moving or cycling at his normal speed
30 seconds of higher speed
1 minute 30 Seconds of lower speed
5-Minute Cool Down
Keep moving at whatever pace he’s comfortable with for five minutes
Any type of exercise can work with this approach. If he wants to use weights or swim, he can start with a warmup, do timed periods of higher intensity exercises and rest periods, then cool down.
The overall goal is for him to get moving. The more he moves, the more benefits he’ll have in his overall health and mood.
That said, don’t be surprised if, once he begins to notice changes in his mood and overall confidence, he changes his mind and decides to join you at the gym.The gym is a great place with a variety of equipment to get both cardio and strength exercises in. It’s also a destination to leave his home and socialize with other people. That could also benefit him emotionally and mentally.
No matter where he exercises, the best way to get those same benefits is by doing something functional and with exercises that have moments of high intensity to increase heart rate.
As long as his doctor agrees about practicing these exercise routines and he practices them safely, there will be benefits. Hope this helps!
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