Smutty Fitness: My Mother-in-law and her fitness

Hayley Posted by Hayley at August 30, 2012 13:54:56 August 30, 2012 13:54:56

Hi Hayley,
I'm very concerned about my mother-in-law's fitness level. She has always been a larger woman, but over the last few months she has gotten incredibly lethargic and is quite obese (probably in the 250lb range). She spends her days sleeping and watching television. There have been quite a few life changes for my in-laws over the past year, including my father-in-law losing his job, and I suspect that these changes have caused some anxiety and depression, which seems to only exacerbate the issue.

We recently moved closer to them, and I see my father-in-law quite regularly, but my MIL never seems to come out with us, or when she does, we have to take multiple breaks if we're going anywhere that requires standing. She sits down approximately every five minutes, and can barely walk up a small flight of stairs.

She broke her leg in her 20s (she's now 60) and I know she has apprehensions about falling, but I would like to start going over to their place and getting her walking outside on a regular basis. What do you think the best routine would be for this situation? I think she should push herself a little bit but I don't want to scare her off of walking.

I want you to put yourself into your mother in law’s shoes for a moment and imagine what it would be like to be 60 years old, extremely overweight and wondering how you ended up in this position.  Imagine how overwhelming and scary it would be trying to figure out how to lose 70 or more pounds. You would have no clue where to start!

Here is what I suggest if you are up for the challenge and really want to help her.  The first thing you should do is create a team with your husband and your father in law and express to them your concern for you MIL’s health. By creating a larger support system for her, and for you, the road to a healthier lifestyle will be much easier.  Begin by getting her out everyday for a walk (you, your husband and your father in law can take turns doing this).  It does not matter for how long, you just need to get her moving.  If she needs to sit and rest, let her and sit and rest with her.  All that is important in the beginning is helping her create the habit of dedicating 30 minutes a day to exercise.  It will not be long before you will start to see her fitness improve and her rest intervals will become shorter and less frequent and she will be walking farther and longer in no time.
It is then (when you start to see her improve) that you create more challenges for her.  Perhaps you suggest you both go try a yoga class or maybe a water aerobics class or take her to a community center and get her on a stationary bike and have a trainer help her learn how to use the weight machines.  Many community centers offer programs for seniors where they can work out together in an unintimidating environment and have staff on hand to ensure their safety.  At this point the “support team” will still need to be holding her hand and doing everything with her.

If she makes it this far then I would not be surprised if she has gained confidence in herself and her abilities. She may even begin to enjoy exercise and start to do it on her own. As she relies on her own motivation and begins to push herself harder you will observe noticeable changes in her weight. 

This is now the time to help her improve her nutrition and make changes in her diet.  Look for nutritional seminars that are offered in your neighbourhood (community centers, public health centers, libraries) that you and your family can attend together and then practice what you learn when you have family dinners.  This is a really inexpensive way to gain nutritional knowledge.  Help her realize that eating healthy is easy and it can actually taste good. 

What is most important is that you ease her into this new lifestyle.  As we age change is scary however if she waits any longer it could get to a point where it is too late.  

Attached - Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany on a family bike ride.


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