I can think of a number of gifts that could help motivate your father to get more exercise. A gift certificate for a few sessions with a personal trainer at a local gym is a good way to start. An assessment by a trainer should give him an accurate idea of what kind of shape he's in now, and the trainer can outline a program that will enable him to build his strength and endurance over a realistic span of time. I suggest interviewing a few trainers to find one you think will be compatible with your father. He may not relate to one young enough to be his son or daughter or to someone who hasn't worked with older clients.
If your dad is into gadgets, there are several that could help keep him motivated in his exercise program:
- A pedometer: These inexpensive devices record every step you take. Ideally, a walking workout should consist of about 3,000 steps in 30 minutes. According to a study published in the May 2009 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, when participants reached the moderate-exercise level, the researchers found that for men, step counts associated with walking were between 92 and 102 steps per minute. For women, counts ranged from 91 to 115 steps per minute. You can buy pedometers online or at sporting goods stores.
- An mp3 player: Listening to music as you walk or bike can make the time go faster and set the rhythm for your movement. Download some of your father's musical favorites - but make sure that the songs are lively enough to help him keep up a brisk pace. (I have listened to audiobooks while exercising and have gotten so absorbed in the narrative that I have gone past 30 minutes of exercise without noticing.)
If your father enjoys grilling outdoors, you could also consider giving him encouragement to cook more nutritious entrees than the typical hamburgers and hot dogs. Special trays that hold vegetables and fish could inspire him to vary the menu and give the whole family healthier summer fare. The trays are inexpensive. You can find them online and at hardware stores.
Andrew Weil, M.D.