There are many people who find it difficult to exercise or get involved in any significant physical activity. If you know such a person, there may be a few things you can do to help improve their health while also being there to offer emotional support.
Here are 6 tips to help a loved one become more active:
1. Let Them Know That You’re Here to Help
Does this person struggle with even the most basic form of activity? If yes, you could visit them every day and encourage them to stand on their feet and walk around the house or compound during the day. You can also help them do some gentle activities such as stretching, doing sit-ups in a chair, or walk back and forth from one room to another. The key thing is to encourage movement, and something as simple as walking will get the blood flowing and improve cardiovascular health, among other things. Be clear about what your loved one will achieve by becoming more active and be there to reassure them if things become challenging.
2. Suggest Activities You Can Do Together
If you need a familiar starting point before getting your loved one to do serious exercise, a casual walk around the park will do wonders for their physical and mental health. Try taking a walk once or twice a week, and if this isn’t possible, don’t lose hope, find a different activity that you can do together. Here are some ideas:
- Learn and do stretching exercises together at home.
- Challenge each other to do push-ups during commercials while watching TV.
- Sign up at the gym and meet up once a week for mild cardio exercises.
- Join an amateur sport that you both like, like snorkeling or bike riding, and make time for it.
Whatever reasons your loved one may have for not being active, the important thing is to be open and supportive, no matter their level of physical activity. To keep them active when you’re away, consider sending your loved one gifts that encourage them to stay active, such as running shoes, a fitness tracker, a balance ball, or a yoga mat.
3. Point Out the Positives
If your loved one has had depression from an ongoing illness, or for any other reason, it is likely that you will be a welcome distraction and a reason for them to smile every time you show up. In that case, any small improvement in their strength or demeanor is worth celebrating, even if you both have a long way to go. Point out the positive effects of your health campaign, and keep the mood elevated to help inspire more activity.
Since you want to discourage inactivity, try becoming involved by helping with simple tasks like cooking and cleaning, which will help ease feelings of despair or boredom. If they need someone to look after the kids so they can leave the house, you may offer to babysit one in a while or hire a nanny. Find a way to get over any logistical barriers so that your loved one becomes more active.
4. Choose Healthy Habits
Help your loved one rearrange their routine to encourage healthy habits. Some of the things they can do include:
- Taking the stairs when possible
- Park further away so that you can walk
- Clean the house
- Walk the dogs/ Play with your pets
- Buy fresh food to cook at home
- Start a fun hobby – anything that gets you active
5. Offer Understanding and Encouragement
If your loved one is known to withdraw and isolate, it may be a while before they become interested in your activities, but whatever kind of challenges they have, the best thing you can do for them is to be available and offer support. Listening is a great skill and it will help your loved one feel more encouraged to express any challenges they may be facing at the moment. However, if there’s a need to involve a professional therapist, encourage your loved one to see one. Diagnosing depression requires that you do some research on the known symptoms so that you know what to look out for, and how to handle your loved one if they have the condition.
6. Offer Distractions and Activities
Get your loved one to spend as much time as they can out in nature, or around other people – whichever they prefer. Being outdoors can be a form of medicine for someone not used to being active. If they don’t particularly enjoy nature, then perhaps they will find it exciting to engage with other people, and hopefully, create social ties that make them appreciate life in general.
Check-in with them regularly and be creative about finding harmless (and fun!) distractions that will help them disconnect from any kind of stress they may be experiencing at home. We’ve already mentioned this, but if you can be around to help with daily chores, that would be great; but as long as you remain involved in their life, it should be enough to keep your loved one going strong.