How can I make exercise more fun for my senior mom?

Question: My mom knows she needs to exercise and tries her best to make it a regular thing, but she just gets bored with the exercises she can do from her home. How can I make the routine more fun for her so she wants to do it more often?

Answer: Please let your mom know she’s not alone. Most exercisers at some time find it challenging to stay motivated—even trainers. Because I’m not certain what type of routine your mom is doing, I’m going to offer all sorts of ideas.

Exercise is always more fun when you include a workout partner. You said your mom exercises at home. Does she have any friends who might be interested in joining her? They could meet at a neighborhood park for a walk, or even have their exercise date over the internet using Zoom.

Changing up an exercise routine every week or two can make it more fun. Doing the same exercise routine everyday does get boring. The internet is loaded with free workout programs geared for seniors. AARP offers special online classes for seniors: Exercising at Home Just Got Easier, for example, has a link to a mother and daughter workout team.

Cable television is also a good place to find exercise programs. One of my favorites is an exercise program that airs on PBS called “Classical Stretch.” (Check your area for times and stations.) It’s a 30-minute program, and all you need is a chair and a mat.

There are still plenty of exercise DVDs to be found, especially through the local library. (Even Classical Stretch sells DVDs on its website.) With a variety of DVDs, your mom could do a different exercise routine everyday, which could really help decrease the boredom. Some exercises that are popular with seniors and great at keeping them fit are tai chi, dancing, kickboxing, yoga and floor pilates. The only caution is to stay with exercise routines that are close to your mom’s fitness level to prevent injuries.

Some exercises that are popular with seniors and great at keeping them fit are tai chi, dancing, kickboxing, yoga and floor pilates.

One of the other reasons people start losing interest in their exercise programs is they don’t see any meaningful results. Spending a little money and hiring a certified personal trainer for a few weeks could help. When you have more “skin in the game” because there’s a cost, it can help with motivation. Plus, a trainer could help your mom start to meet some exercise goals so she feels like she’s making real progress.

Having new exercise shoes or new workout clothes can also help boost enthusiasm, as can new exercise equipment. A bike or a treadmill can get boring pretty quickly, but a set of resistance bands could be fun. They’re inexpensive and don’t take up much room; Plus, there are tons of exercises you can do with the bands that are great for seniors. Again, hiring a trainer to get her started may help, but YouTube offers lots of videos to show how they can be used.

Having new exercise shoes or new workout clothes can also help boost enthusiasm, as can new exercise equipment.

Does your mom have a FitBit, an Apple Watch or a phone app that can track her progress? Most of the programs that track exercise give reminders and encouragement for staying with a fitness routine. With many of the smart watches, you and your mom can even share your daily workout data. A little family competition could be fun.

With many of the smart watches, you and your mom can even share your daily workout data. A little family competition could be fun.

Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of a pet! After one of my clients had both knees replaced, she went to the shelter and adopted a dog. She did it so she would have no more excuses to skip a walk. For her, it’s working perfectly.

Taking all these choices to your mom at one time might be a bit overwhelming. It may be helpful to talk with your mom to find out exactly why she’s getting bored. Then, during your conversation, you’ll be able to offer relevant suggestions. It’s important your mom feels like she is in control of her exercise and that she’s not being pressured to do it. Exercising is a very personal decision. But, we all stay more motivated when we feel the benefits and see our progress.

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