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Mom Is Not Active Anymore



"My 70-year-old mother is quite inactive, yet not overweight.  She sits all day, reading or watching television. As a marathon runner myself, it is very difficult for me not to be upset with her lack of exercise. I feel she is frittering her life away. I have made a few suggestions to her that she quickly dismisses. Frankly, she is just not interested in doing anything to maintain her ability to get around. What are your thoughts on this situation?" - READER



All exercise enthusiasts are likely puzzled by very sedentary individuals like your mother, who sees no reason to be physically active. At 70 it is likely that she has not noticed a significant decline in the ability to move about her home and therefore does not share your concern for her future. In fact, she does not likely believe that it matters.

The concern you have is based on the positive effects you experience from exercise and being physically fit. You know that it matters to be in good shape. Your mother has likely never pursued exercise as a daily or weekly goal. She was not from a generation that went to gyms. She grew up in the 50s and 60s when gyms were for boxers and weight lifters. Your time spent running is likely a bit puzzling to your mother, as it is not of her world. Work is how that generation stayed physically active.

Would it be a good idea for your mother to be more physically active? Absolutely! Maintaining mobility, core strength, and balance are ever more important as we age. While she may have no difficulties at 70, she might at 80 and 90. When you have the privilege of living into retirement age as she has, it is all about maintenance.

Is there a way to get Mother moving? I do not think it will be easy, but there are a few things you could try.

  • Schedule family activities/outings that involve a little bit of physical exertion. For instance, a picnic that requires a short hike, a shopping trip that includes a lot of walking, etc.
  • Ask for your mother’s help with any project of yours that requires physical work.
  • Explore what your mother loves to do and find ways to turn it into a physical activity. If she loves reading, perhaps a weekly bike ride to the library while you run beside her would suffice. 
  • Encourage your father to assist in increasing the activity level of the household.

I want you to recognize that you are not likely going to turn your mother into an exercise enthusiast like yourself. What you may be able to do is add an enjoyable activity to your mother’s routine that also helps her to maintain her strength. I agree with you that it is important and worth the effort on your part.

I wish you and your mother the best. 

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