Dad Becomes Inactive In the Winter
"Fall is coming and I worry that my father will become less and less active due to the weather. In summer, he golfs once or twice a week, he takes a daily walk, and he volunteer landscapes for his home owner association. He’s usually quite busy getting out there.
I have noticed in past years that he hunkers down in the winter, rarely leaving his easy chair. Since he lives in a condominium now, he doesn’t have stairs to climb, snow to shovel, or frankly anything to do that requires strength. It seems to be set up for the elderly.
At 70, I am afraid that he will hasten a decline in his current living situation. While I live nearby, I don’t know of a way to change his situation in a way that will help him be more active. If you have any ideas, I would love to hear them."
Managing activity level in winter is a challenge for almost all adults in colder climates. Unless you work outdoors, your activity level is bound to decline in the winter months. With that decline in activity comes a decrease in muscle tone as well as weight gain, worse balance and a host of other minor physical deteriorations.
All adults should develop a maintenance plan to get through the winter months that maintains what we accomplish in summer. But how to do that and how to stick to it is the secret that each and every one of us wants to know.
It starts with a strong desire to care for the body that you have. When I say strong, I mean that it’s not just a passing fancy or a good idea that you have no real plan to accomplish. It has to be a priority. For any of us to prevent the winter slide, we must have a wish to do so, accompanied by a concrete plan.
It starts with a conversation with your father. Find where his interest is in maintaining his fitness level this winter. Comment on how wonderful his activity level is in the summer months and ask him what he does to keep his muscles in shape in winter. Then sit quietly and listen. He may surprise you with a daily regimen that you never knew about and wish to copy in your own life. Or, he may not know how to respond to you because his summer fun simply cannot be replicated in the winter months, or because he does not see intentional physical activity as necessary.
Now if your father’s response closely aligns with the latter, which it likely will, you have an opportunity to help him out. Since his physical activity is usually games or work, that is the type of activity that will appeal to him in winter. Adopting an exercise regimen or going to the gym several times a week is not likely something he will consider.
I would suggest the following:
- He could work a part-time seasonal job in a store this holiday season. So many employers need help right now, and a job that keeps him moving a bit might be a wonderful outlet for a few months.
- See if the local library has volunteer jobs that can be done, such as restocking books.
- Continue the daily walks except in the most inclement weather. He may need excellent hiking boots, and the right weather gear. These days there is some amazing outdoor wear that make daily walks quite doable all year long.
- Consider a household project that requires movement - painting a room, some type of woodworking, putting together a doll house, etc. If it’s at your house, all the better for you.
- Take up a winter sport with your father. Racquetball, bowling, skating or even skiing come to mind.
You can see where I’m headed here. First and foremost, know thyself. Then mirror your activity to what interests you/him, all with the goal of being active and staying fit. It’s good for the body and the mind.
It’s wonderful that you have a strong interest in your father’s physical health. With a little nudge and maybe even more activity for you, success for the pair of you may be possible.
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