Domontesquieu Asked April 2012

How can I encourage my mother to exercise? She refuses no matter what I suggest and I'm worried about her health.

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My mum is only 69, she has some physical frailty but not enough to stop her from doing some exercise, but I can't get her to do any. She carries a lot of weight around her abdomen (the unhealthiest place to have weight) and she just says she's happy how she is, though I know she's really not.

I'm chronically ill and I've even asked her if she would exercise with me (just walking) when I'm well enough to do it and she just flat out says "No". She's too young to be old, but she refuses to eat properly or do much for herself. Any advice would be really appreciated. Thanks!

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EXPERT Carol Bradley Bursack Apr 2012
You were smart to suggest that you exercise together. That sometimes gets people motivated. However, in this case it didn't work. She may be depressed enough so she doesn't feel like taking care of herself. If you can get her to a doctor for a checkup, there may be some progress.
Otherwise, maybe all you can do it not talk about it. If she is left alone about exercising, she may decide "on her own" to do it. Sometimes people get stubborn when adult children want them to do things for their own good. If you back off, she may more forward. I hope so. You are right that she is too young to be old. Good luck,
Carol
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3pinkroses Apr 2012
It is a great idea to ask your Mom if she wants to exercise (walk) with you. At least you offered the invitation. Many people don't enjoy exercise, walking or anything else. It is a personal preference. Even though it is unhealthy to not exercise; I think most people know they should exercise and if they decide, then they will. No one really has to even suggest it; as it is something in all of us we know we should be doing.

And some people are perfectly happy with no exercise at all - even though they realize it is not good for them. I have a friend whose mother recently passed away; but during her elderly years, she was quite overweight, but she was happy. She had "made peace with it so to speak" - and that is OK too. During the aging process, we all have to find what makes us tick and what brings joy and happiness to our lives. Personally, I will want to always exercise as it is something I have always loved and done for myself. I truly enjoy it. But I also have friends that don't, and that is fine, too. There are other things to do together - maybe a glass of wine??? Whatever makes us happy, no matter what it is is what we should do as we age.
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PaulaK Dec 2012
I am also an overweight woman, though in my mid-40s. I have struggled with my weight all my life, but for me now, my concerns are really about 85% health-relatd and only 15% cosmetic. :-)

I am also struggling to take care of a parent in another state who has frontal-temporal dementia, and I have been trying to educate myself about what I can encourage my Dad to do that might help to slow the progress of his disease, and about what I can do to perhaps avoid developing it myself.

From what I read, regular exercise is critical to preventing brain shrinkage. I believe this has something to do with ensuring regular oxygenation of the brain. Given what I'm seeing in my Dad, I'm actually much more concerned for myself now about developing dementia than I am about developing heart disease ... so I am trying now to get regular exercise -- i.e., not to lose weight or fit into smaller clothes, but to avoid the personality-destroying, memory-wrecking thief that is dementia.

I don't know if this would help your Mom ... but I know that for my husband and me, one of the reasons we traditionally avoided exercise is because we find it boring. We have solved this problem by getting a treadmill and setting it up in a room with a TV and a DVR (or VCR) where we have "taped" lots of shows we like to watch. Then we just watch one of the shows we like as we walk. Perhaps this might help your Mom? We don't have to go outside and deal with bad weather, or walk on streets where we don't feel safe, or have to smell car exhaust or worry about unleashed dogs, and so on. The treadmill controls make it possible to walk as fast or slow as we want (and to "change it up" if we want). We have complete control over the temperature in the room (we can turn on or off air conditioning and have lots of fans we can run if we want to). And the TV shows make it possible to mostly forget what you're doing and just enjoy a show that you like. It's kind of a win-win-win.

The difficult thing, I think, would be to get your Mom to talk openly about why she doesn't want to exercise. Unfortunately, this may be difficult, as she seems to be digging in her heels and wanting the subject to be off limits. But it would be useful to know if she's not open to the idea because (1) exercising hurts (i.e., she has painful knees or hips), (2) exercise is boring (maybe the treadmill + tv idea would make it more appealing), (3) exercise is time-consuming and she's too busy with other things, etc. Knowing WHY she seems to be adamant about saying "no" might help you to come up with suggestions that would meet her needs.
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Thanks so much for your advice and comments Carol, I really appreciate it!
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jeannegibbs Apr 2012
It is hard to not have control or even influence when we see a loved one doing something we consider self-destructive!

Belly weight carries the highest health risk and is also the hardest to lose.

I wouldn't be quick to assume that you know you mother's feelings better than she does. If she says she is happy the way things are, it could be that she really is. If she has been trying on and off for a long time to lose that belly fat she may have made peace with it, decided she is not going to be bullied about it by fashion magazines and skinny models and society's expectations. She may really have decided to be happy with the body she has. And clearly she would not be pleased that her daughter can't just be happy with it or at least accept, too.

Quite apart from the fashion/social pressure aspect of excess weight, your concern about health consequences is valid. As Carol says, Mom should have a thorough checkup. Let her follow or disregard her doctor's advice.

I suggest that you consciously but subtlely give Mom the message that you accept her the way she is. (With no "but ... blah, blah, blah, your health). "Oh, Mom, that new outfit looks great on you!" "Mom, I sure hope I have a complexion as nice as yours when I reach your age."

I know that you certainly mean well, but all the suggestions for how Mom should change MGHT be construed by her as evidence you think she is not good enough the way she is. You know and I know that is not the case, but Mom doesn't necessary know it.

And, BTW, I am coming at this very much from the perspective of an overweight woman in her sixties who has finally, after a lifetime of fighting it, made peace with her body and is happy with how she is -- except for the health aspects.

If I tell my kids that I have a goal to improve some aspect of my health, and then they email me or call me from time to time to see how I'm doing, I would consider that supportive. If any of them decide on their own what my goal should be and then try to coax me into it, I would be hurt and I would tell them to mind their own business and take care of their own health. (Just sharing the view from the other side of the fence.)
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