Exercising is one of the most important things older adults can do for their physical and mental health, but getting motivated to do it isn’t always easy. Health limitations, fear of injury, and simply falling into a sedentary routine—especially during the pandemic—can prevent elderly people from getting the exercise they need.
Staying active can help prevent many age-related health conditions and make it easier for seniors to live independently longer—something we all want for our parents.
If you’re worried about your ageing parent’s activity level, the following strategies can help you persuade your parent to get moving.
Share the benefits of activity
Highlighting the benefits to staying active can be all the motivation your parent needs to get moving.
Touch on the actual health benefits, like a reduced risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s, as well as tangible benefits and goals, like having an easier time enjoying activities they love and keeping up with the grandchildren.
Let them take the lead
Let’s face it; no one likes to be nagged. Putting the pressure on will put a damper on their motivation. It’s also likely to be met with resistance if your parent is worried about losing their independence and the right to make their own decisions.
Support and encourage them, but give them the space to take the lead.
Identify and address obstacles
Find out what’s stopping your parent from being active. If they’re not forthcoming, ask if they’d be more comfortable talking with a doctor about it. If they still don’t want to share, look for clues that could give you some answers.
For instance, wincing and groaning with movement are signs of pain. Getting easily winded after moving just a little could be a sign of an underlying heart problem. These are just a few things that could make the idea of exercise unappealing and even scary.
Pinpoint their preferences
Contrary to popular belief, lawn bowling and aqua fit isn’t every elderly person’s cup of tea—not that there’s anything wrong with these activities, of course.
Regardless of age, we’re more likely to exercise if we find it enjoyable, so pinpoint activities they love and choose workouts accordingly.
If your parent is a social butterfly, help connect them with group fitness classes or a walking club, or hire a caregiver for companionship. If they love to dance, try dance-based workout classes or videos geared to their fitness level. If they have a green thumb, a caregiver can help with runs to the garden center or mobility store to pick up assistive gardening tools.
Remember, there are many ways to stay active
Physical activity doesn’t have to look the same for everyone. An elderly person who resists the idea of exercise should be encouraged to get moving in any way they can.
This can mean pushing a lawnmower, playing golf, or going for a leisurely stroll with a friend or a caregiver.
Give them the tools they need
Exercise is a bigger priority in our generation than it was in your parents’. As such, they may not be aware of all the tools and resources available to help them get fit.
Find local groups or introduce them to people in their age group to enjoy activities with. Get them a pedometer or fitness tracker to help motivate them and track their progress.
If they require assistance, a professional caregiver can accompany them on walks or two and from fitness classes and other activities.
It’s recommended that adults over 65 engage in 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise weekly. While this is something to strive for, experts agree that some exercise is better than none, and starting slow is important.
Don’t try to rush the process. Instead, encourage your parent to work within their fitness level and set small, achievable fitness goals to work towards. For instance, increasing exercise duration by 10 minutes. Every minute counts and is a step closer to better health!
Be sure to consult their doctor before starting a new activity and for advice on exercising with a medical condition.
Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines For Older Adults – 65 Years & Older. https://www.csep.ca/CMFiles/Guidelines/CSEP_PAGuidelines_older-adults_en.pdf
Physical activity tips for older adults (65 years and older). Government of Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/healthy-living/physical-activity-tips-older-adults-65-years-older.html