7 Ways to Boost Your Parent's Health

Help Motivate Mom and Dad to Eat Right, Exercise, and Live Well

Dad cooking with daughters

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If you'd like to help your parents exercise, eat a more nutritious diet, or create other healthy lifestyle habits, nagging them to change isn't likely to work. Instead, the key is to figure out what would motivate them to get healthy, then find ways to keep that motivation going.

What Motivates People to Get Healthy?

Men and women are different when it comes to health motivation. For instance, research has found that women tend to be more motivated by appearance and their physical condition while males are often motivated by achieving mastery or engaging in competition.

What does this mean in real-life terms? If you want to help motivate your dad to get healthier, engaging his competitive side or appealing to his desire to master a specific healthy behavior might help. To motivate your mom, talking about how the new behavior could help improve her physical condition may do the trick.

While these are general findings, everyone is different. Therefore, if you want to learn what would best motivate your parents to get healthy, ask what would drive them to create healthy lifestyle changes. Then use their responses to come up with ways to stoke their motivation and keep it going.

What doesn't work when trying to motivate parents to get healthy? Negativity and nagging top the list. Research published in Nutrition Reviews found that fear-based messages about health and wellness are less likely to work than messages that are "gain-framed."

7 Ways to Help Improve Your Parent's Health

Are you ready to rally your mom and dad to better health? Use any (or all) of these ideas to help motivate them to get and stay well.

Reminisce and Recreate

Did mom or day play sports in high school or college? Give them the chance to brag about their glory days and remember how it felt to be physically active and fit. Then motivate them to feel that way again by asking them to teach you the sport.

If your dad played football, for instance, schedule a few sessions so he can teach you to throw. If your mom ran track, go to the local high school and have her demonstrate a few running drills. Keep the motivation going by asking your parents to coach you for a month or two.

Sign Up for an Event

If your parent has a competitive side, see if they are interested in signing up for a fitness event, either online or locally. Sign yourself up too and use this event as a way to build a stronger relationship while getting healthier at the same time.

Look for an upcoming 5k run or walk, for instance, then create a schedule where you can train together. Make sure the event is far enough in the future (at least 2 to 3 months) to allow for proper training.

Plan an Adventure

If your budget allows for it, invest in home workout equipment that enables your parents to experience a new destination without ever getting on a plane. Some home exercise equipment helps users walk, hike, run, and bike all over the world with customized workouts filmed in exotic destinations.

Alternatively, make plans to take a health-based vacation together. Go to a fitness or weight-loss resort and mix health with a bit of relaxation. Or plan a physically active vacation for the entire family, such as hiking a portion of the Appalachian Trail.

Get Technical

If your parents live far away, consider getting them a fitness tracker so you can help motivate them digitally. Many trackers allow you to connect with friends and family on their apps, so you can offer motivation from afar.

Innovative tracker-based programs can also stoke self-motivation by providing certain data, such as a running index score to run faster with less effort. Others have features that track macronutrient balance. Find a tracker that records the data that is most likely to motivate your parents.

Foster New Friendships

Being invited to participate in an activity can improve motivation to exercise. If your parents have friends who hike or bicycle on weekends, for instance, encourage those friends to invite your mom and dad along.

Social support also helps boosts adherence to diet and exercise programs. Having healthy friends may help encourage your parents to participate in wellness activities, perhaps even reducing their participation in less healthy habits, like smoking or drinking.

Cook Together

Studies have found that we eat differently when we are around others. Specifically, we tend to mirror the eating behavior of the people around us, partly because we find it rewarding and partly because we want to be accepted socially.

If you are trying to get your parents to eat a healthier diet, set up a weekly meal schedule and dine together. You can either make healthy meals at home or go out to dinner and find nutritious menu options at their favorite restaurant.

Motivate With Music

Everybody has certain tunes that get them motivated to move. Make mom and dad a playlist of their favorite songs and suggest that they use them for motivation throughout the day, such as during mini-movement sessions.

Wireless earbuds can be worn comfortably in the office, while out on a run, or even on a bike. This allows each of your parents to enjoy music, make calls, listen to the news or forecasts, and more—all while being able to hear their surroundings.

Point Out Performance Benefits

If one of your parents likes to beat their buddies on the golf course, point out that certain weight training exercises can help improve their game. Or maybe you have a parent that likes to bicycle around the neighborhood. There are a number of exercises that can help increase leg strength.

If your parents aren't currently active and don't really desire to be, pointing out the benefits of exercise for everyday life may help. For instance, exercise can help them stay independent, reduce their risk of falls, and even improve their mood.

Seek Out Sports Programs

An Ohio State study found that nine in 10 Americans "enjoy sports at least a little," with more than 40% identifying themselves as passionate sports fans. What does enjoying sports have to do with creating a healthier lifestyle?

There are countless pro sports stars who endorse fitness products, and some that even promote exercise programs. Find out who mom and dad's favorite teams and players are, then look for workout plans or products that they endorse or promote.

A Word From Verywell

Regardless of how you choose to inspire your parents to get healthy, remember that your participation probably means a lot to them. Try to choose activities that you can do together so that you build a strong, healthy relationship while also promoting health and wellness in the family.

8 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Molanorouzi K, Khoo S, Morris T. Motives for adult participation in physical activity: type of activity, age, and genderBMC Public Health. 2015;15:66. doi:10.1186/s12889-015-1429-7

  2. Wansink B, Pope L. When do gain-framed health messages work better than fear appeals? Nutr Rev. 2015 Jan;73(1):4-11. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuu010

  3. Caudwell KM, Keatley DA. The effect of men's body attitudes and motivation for gym attendanceJ Strength Cond Res. 2016;30(9):2550-2556. doi:10.1519/jsc.0000000000001344

  4. Lemstra M, Bird Y, Nwankwo C, Rogers M, Moraros J. Weight loss intervention adherence and factors promoting adherence: a meta-analysis. Patient Prefer Adherence. 2016;10:1547-1559. doi:10.2147/PPA.S103649

  5. Croezen S, Picavet HS, Haveman-Nies A, Verschuren WM, de Groot L, van't Veer P. Do positive or negative experiences of social support relate to current and future health? Results from the Doetinchem Cohort Study. BMC Public Health. 2012;12:65. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-65

  6. Higgs S, Thomas J. Social influences on eating. Curr Opin Behav Sci. 2016;9:1-6. doi:10.1016/j.cobeha.2015.10.005

  7. National Institute on Aging. Real-life benefits of exercise and physical activity.

  8. Ohio State News. Americans like sports, but heterosexual men especially do.

By Malia Frey, M.A., ACE-CHC, CPT
 Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.