“When are you going to take out the garbage?”
“So you’re still on the ‘couch’ part of the ‘couch-to-5K’, I see. When are you actually going to get moving?”
Whether the topic is housework or working out, nagging just doesn’t work. As the person doing the nagging gets louder and more frustrated, the person being nagged digs in their heels. That garbage isn’t going to the curb any time this century, and as for hitting the gym? Forget it.
Study after study has shown that nagging is the least effective way to inspire change – but sometimes it’s hard to keep your opinions to yourself when you see the people you love neglecting their well-being by eating poorly or not getting enough exercise. It’s true that a healthy diet and an active lifestyle are key to maintaining good health, but nagging isn’t going to inspire anyone to eat more vegetables or take a daily after-dinner walk.
Here are a few ways to help inspire your family to lead healthier lives – no nagging required.
1. Make fitness fun
Lots of people see going to the gym as basically the same as going to the office, with the added indignities of communal change rooms and lots of stinky, sweaty people. Instead of trundling along on a treadmill or risking embarrassment in a fitness class, make it a mission to try out all sorts of different physical activities, from sea kayaking to hiking, geocaching to ultimate Frisbee, snowshoeing to bouncing on a trampoline. As an added bonus, spending time outdoors is known to boost your immune system.
2. Work fitness into everyday life
Not a gym person, and no money or time to spend on active adventures? Try working fitness into your daily routines. As little as 30 minutes of activity a day makes a difference, and if you can walk your kids to school and back, you’re probably more than halfway there. Add an after-school dance party and you’re done. (Alternatively, try getting off the bus one stop early, or walking to the coffee shop instead of driving. Little errands add up.)
3. Make healthy living a common goal
It’s hard to make a change alone – so why not support your family member by making fitness a shared priority and picking a common goal to train for together? For example, lots of families end up signing up to run a 5K together when their kids sign up for Kids’ Run Club – it’s a low-cost activity that the whole family can participate in, and crossing that finish line together feels amazing. If you’re looking to make dietary changes, get the whole family involved in meal-planning and grocery shopping.
4. Use positive reinforcement and set up an incentive system
Break the nagging habit by resolving to compliment positive behaviour, such as making healthy menu choices or choosing to walk rather than drive, rather than commenting on negative behaviour. Positive reinforcement works. To help your loved one reach long-term goals, work together to identify short-term milestones, and set up an incentive system. Pampering activities such as a massage, a night out or a new item of clothing make great rewards.
5. Learn to see exercise and eating well as their own reward
Speaking of rewards, if you can encourage your family to see healthy living as its own reward, rather than just another item on the to-do list, you’ll be well on your way to making a change. In fact, studies have shown that focusing on immediate rewards – such as more energy, improved mood, and lower stress levels – is more motivating to people than focusing on long-term goals, such as weight loss.
Making big lifestyle changes doesn’t happen overnight, but with persistence, communication, and a few choice rewards along the way, anything is possible!
How do you inspire your family members to live healthier lives? Leave us a comment and tell us what works for you!
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