How Do I Keep Mom Moving In the Winter?
"When fall comes, I move my exercise indoors. My mother, on the other hand, goes dormant. When I say dormant, I truly mean it. She sits in her chair with a blanket on her lap all day and night. She then goes to bed and sleeps about 10 hours.
Sure, she's getting up there at 85 years old. I do worry, though, that she’s becoming a bit of a slug. It cannot be good to be that inactive.
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with her. She walks fine without a cane or walker. She lives alone. She prepares her meals and keeps her small apartment in order as best she can. In summer, Mom takes a walk every day, visiting with the neighbors along the way. She always finds a reason to go somewhere. She goes to the store every other day during the warm months. Now, she often asks me to pick up her food for her.
I’m worried that the winter is long, and her health will deteriorate with such an elevated level of inactivity. How do I get Mom moving?"
Movement is essential to good health, and you’re certainly observant and thoughtful to notice your mother’s behavior and ask how to change it.
I don’t think what you’ve described is all that unusual. Being less active in the winter months is quite common, even for younger folks. The days are shorter and it's colder outside. Just notice how few people you see walking the streets in fall versus summer. It’s not just your mother who has retreated inside.
You’ve landed on an important topic. Each of us needs to figure out how to keep the blood flowing and the muscles moving through the winter months.
I don’t think lecturing mom on the benefits of exercise is the best route, here. You may want to look at what she does in summer and see how you can replicate it when it's colder.
You wrote that she walks in her neighborhood because she enjoys getting out and about. She feels the sun on her face, sees the leaves on the trees, and chats with her neighbors. I doubt she’s doing it for the exercise on any level. I suspect she does it to get out of the house.
What setting out there would offer her a similar sense of community? A nearby mall may work for her. Consider having your mother pick up items for you at the mall once or twice a week. Give her a list and a bit of cash, and have her hunt for bargains. This will keep her busy, engaged and in motion.
I also recommend you search for indoor events that require walking. Most communities have indoor events all winter long. Look for those that will keep her moving for at least an hour.
Another idea is to explore what she wears for outdoor attire. If one’s coat is not warm enough, getting out is just uncomfortable. Most down puffy coats are quite cozy and can extend the season when it's possible for her to get out.
My final thought is for you to find a community group that needs help and convince mom it'd be worthwhile to get involved. Look for groups that share her passions. Then convince her that her assistance is needed. This idea may be more difficult to implement, though if it works, the reward could be a more active and engaged mother.
I’m certain you realize that you can’t force her to value exercise as you do. The best you can do is encourage activities that mirror what she already does in summer.
I wish you success as you venture down this path together.
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Nov 27, 2023