Helping family members get fit

Encouraging family members to exercise

Q: I have been helping my mom to lead a healthier lifestyle by teaching her about low-fat eating and the importance of exercise. She’s doing great with the food part, but she refuses to exercise until she loses more weight. She’s worried about bulking up. Do you have any suggestions on how to persuade her to exercise?

A: Congratulations on your efforts. I know how hard it can be to encourage parents to change their lifestyles; I’m still working on mine. Here are some things that might help:


  • Show her role models. In the October issue of Prevention, our Fat to Firm at 40+ feature showcases five women who shed pounds, lost inches and feel terrific thanks to exercising. And there are dozens of other success stories that you can share with your mom. 
  • Sneak it in. Ask your mom to go for a walk or to join a dance class with you. She might not think of these activities as exercise and might be more likely to do them. I started doing this with my mom, and now we meet once a week to walk in a nearby park. It also does wonders for your relationship. 
  • Bargain with her. Exercising will allow your mom to eat more or indulge in some of her favorite treats. Specifically, lifting weights will help build muscle, which boosts the amount of calories you burn throughout the day. 
  • Debunk the myth. Unless your mom is willing to work out for hours a day and heft very heavy weights, there is no possibility of her getting big, bulky muscles. And even that might not be enough. Many bodybuilders use drugs to achieve a massive size. 
  • Give her the facts. Exercise is key to keeping off the pounds that she loses, and it can help her hit her goal weight more quickly. Scientific study after scientific study supports this. Also, slimming down only by cutting calories can cause her to lose muscle, her body’s calorie-burning engines. This means she’ll burn fewer calories, making it more difficult to maintain her new slender figure.

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