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Not everyone feels energised by the word “exercise”. If your parents do not have the habit of exercising regularly in their earlier years, getting them to start when they are more advanced in age can be doubly hard. They may feel less confident physically or are more wary of injuries and pains.
One exercise which you can encourage your parents to start with is walking. Walking is an easy exercise they can do anywhere — around the neighbourhood, in shopping malls or parks, and at any time. They can also take short walks of 10 to 30 minutes each time.
To motivate your parents to walk more often, you can help them count their steps using smartphone apps or an activity tracker. Set an achievable daily goal of say, 6,000 steps a day. As they progress, they can slowly work towards walking 10,000 steps daily or even take part in the National Steps Challenge™.
If you have difficulty nudging your parents outdoor for a walk, here are some ways you can get them on their feet:
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Most grandparents have a soft spot for their grandkids. Arrange for them to walk the kids between home and school, or let the grandparents bring them to the beach or playground. They get to bond with the grandchildren and chalk up steps in the process.
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Running errands, such as making trips to the post office, florists or just to buy a set of newspapers, are ways to encourage seniors to do some walking.
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Community gardens and farms have sprung up around HDB precincts and in some condominiums. There are even instances of creative farmers planting herbs and vegetables along HDB corridors. You can encourage your parents to do some gardening which means tending to plants daily and walking more often.
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Shopping means lots of walking. With so many shopping malls around the island, Mum and Dad will not tire them easily. You can even bring them earlier before the shops open for a round of mall-walking exercise.
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Now’s the time to encourage your parents to renew their interest, refresh their hobbies or pick up new ones. To help them overcome the inertia, you can help them source and sign up for courses. Having a structured programme to attend means making regular trips and taking more steps on those days.
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Ask the grandparents along on field trips when you bring your kids to the zoo, gardens or museums. The activities and sights at each venue translate into a good walk for everyone. Alternatively, help them sign up for walking tours organised by community centres or Residents’ Committees which bring them around Singapore’s places of interest.
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If you buy gifts for your parents, think of how your presents can lead to new experiences and a higher activity level. How about getting your parents memberships to places of interest such as Gardens by the Bay, Sentosa or the Jurong Bird Park? With more time on their hands, they are more likely to make full use of these cards (“don’t waste!”) and get that much-needed exercise.
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Find an organisation and cause that matches the interests and values of your folks and encourage them to sign up as volunteers. For example, they can read stories to children at public libraries, help out at animal shelters or be guides at museums. There’s bound to be an area where they can contribute and stay active at the same time.
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Keep a lookout for activity groups organised by the People’s Associations’ community clubs, Residents’ Committees or exercise groups in neighbourhood parks and beaches. If you see a Taiji group practising at the beach or a brisk walking crowd at the park, just ask any of its members for information.
Related: I Walked 1 Million Steps in Five Months
If your elderly folks are pet lovers, spending time with animals is also a way to be more active. For example, both granny and doggie can get their needed strolls together, or go on pet events such as picnics or carnivals.
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If your parents prefer a sedentary lifestyle at home, give them more reasons to put on their walking shoes beyond the word “exercise”. They are more likely to do so for fun, family, and fulfilment. You just have to find out what works.
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This article was last reviewed on
Tuesday, October 2, 2018
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Ministry of Health Singapore. All Rights Reserved.