It’s tough to watch someone we care about make poor lifestyle choices. And yet it seems the more we “suggest” how or “recommend” they should get in shape or take their health seriously, the more the power struggle ensues. Here are a few ideas how to encourage a loved one’s healthy living choices.
Lead by example. “Stop nagging me!” Words such as these, we often hear from our spouse upon gently reminding them to head out for their daily walk. Changing our approach to simply lead by example encourages better results. For example: it’s a beautiful day outside, let’s walk to breakfast. The grand kids will be here soon, lets walk to the corner to greet them. Parking is a bit tight, let’s walk from the dry cleaners to the grocery store.
Make it social. Exercise is way more fun if we’re doing it with our friends. Combine getting healthy with social outings and experience less resistance from your significant other. For example: coordinate a coffee-group after the morning gym visit. Schedule a walk and talk visit with long time neighbors who’ve been traveling. Enlist the help of an exercise professional and plan for a small group circuit class along with your favorite music; the small informal fitness format will be less intimidating.
Get inspired. Encouraging friendly competition or goal setting is an instant way to improve motivation for others and ourselves. Register to participate in an event that supports a cause near and dear to your heart. Many communities sponsor walk or athletic events with a local non-profit as the beneficiary. Your spouse will be inspired to head out for daily walks to prep for the event, knowing his/her participation is raising awareness. Encourage others to join you to form a team, or choosing to participate in honor of a loved one will also encourage activity.
Focus outward. Instead of making it about them and their needing to exercise, make it about helping someone else. Offering to walk an ill neighbor’s dog a few days every week or offering to push your friends’ wheelchair around the neighborhood will take the focus away from exercise and the negative connotations many associate with the term. You’ll now be simply focusing on helping your friend or neighbor, and getting healthy at the same time.
Eliminate the punishment. Many of us were raised where physical activity was used as a punishment. For example, not paying attention in gym class- take a lap! Not following directions- 20 pushups! Exercise should make us feel good, which means we should not be wishing for it to end or staring at the clock every minute! Changing the intensity and mode of what we’re doing will instantly change the meaning we associate with it. Nonchalantly suggest one new activity a month “accidentally” until finding enjoyment. Walk a little further, dust off the old bikes in the garage under the pretense of cleaning them up to sell, revisit dancing at the local non-profit gala for example. Look for opportunities to letting exercise into your day randomly and unplanned, without calling it “exercise!” Getting healthier doesn’t always mean wearing certain clothes, having certain gadgets or equipment, having set aside a certain time frame or even being in a certain location; moving our body is moving our body and all moving burns calories and will strengthen our heart and lungs.
Give up the power struggle and use your energy to get healthy. Simply moving is more important than winning an argument after all, right? Be creative, think of outside of the box exercise options and never ever admit that you were up to something!