5 things that I'd like my parents to do

getting old and getting unhealthy are not tied together

as we get older

You are already aware of what good nutrition and fitness can do for you and why it is required. While your own battle rages on, you are at least trying to do the work. Even if you don't see it, you are doing better than you were a few years ago.

You want to get your parents or someone in your family to do something about their health and fitness beyond just what their doctor says. Let's be more proactive, rather than reactive. They might not be able to do what you are doing but it is a continuum, right? Effort, intensity, tool - there are appropriate ones for all of us.

While strength training is relevant and appropriate for almost all ages, it might scare off our parents. While better eating is clearer to us, we still struggle with it due to various reasons. Our parents have been ingrained in their habits for longer - so, it is going to be a lot harder to get them around.

the role-reversal

My parents are your regular mid-60 unhealthy folks.

My mom's diabetic. She's grown up eating the usual south Indian diet - lots and lots of rice, some vegetables, and the assortment of amazing savouries and pickles and all those wonderful things that go with it. She valiantly tries out millet replacements and other "replace rice with other grains and hope for the best" solutions. But eventually tires of it. In the recent years, she's been diligently walking quite a bit - about 5+ kilometres a day.

My dad has poor eating habits. His lunch in his late-30s (and I've heard it from other sources as well) was a bar of 5-star and a Pepsi. He enjoys walking around with his camera and is one of those people we all have in our families who regularly walk from Besant Nagar to Kodambakkam (10 kilometres through the city) while the rest of us question their sanity.

They've steadily improved their health and lifestyle habits over the past decade. While I know the better textbook answers, it eventually comes down to what they can and want to do. I didn't listen much to them as a kid and listened even lesser when their opinions were thrust on me. Now, the shoe's on the other foot.

Both of them tried out the Daily9 coaching system and saw tremendous results. But the Daily9 is meant to shock your system, and then let you settle into 80% after it.

While certain obvious habits were identified, is there something else they can do that's a little less of a slap in the face?

getting old and getting unhealthy is not the same thing

I see my aunts and uncles go through a similar dip in their health as well. Just years of ingrained habits that have them go through the typical "I am getting old" commentary. Unless something jumps out at them - say their blood sugar is off the charts - they wrongfully assume that everything is fine health-wise and the rest is just how old age happens.

I think we all have elderly folks in our families who we wish paid more attention to their health and lifestyle. But maybe they veer off into heated arguments where you end up looking like the bad guy after trying to help. I was certainly unskilled in my conversations when I started off.

My parents were game to try out something like the Daily9 (it only took them a few years to get around to trying something I recommended). So, I thought to myself about what can be a start to get people above the age of 50 in my family to think about. And well, here is the start.

the start - 5 things they can do

  1. Walk for 30 minutes a day. Walking is wonderful for health and accessible. The minimum dose is 30 minutes a day but more will work as well. If walking is not possible because of joint pain, that's a simple red flag. Get that looked at immediately. Fix that issue. Get ambulatory.

  2. Eat lesser than usual. A significant portion of our daily intake is unnecessary - if they've steadily put on weight over the years, it is simply because calories consumed is higher than calories expended. Gradually, we just eat a bit more here and there and then that becomes the norm. Eating 20% lesser is a good goal to have and this can be accomplished in multiple ways. Here's two - eating more vegetables and eating slower.

  3. Sleep 7+ hours and a nap. If sleep is disturbed, needs to be looked at. Are they snoring and suffering from sleep apnea - get that looked at. Catching up on sleep over the weekend and all that is untrue and doesn't work. Getting a sleep tracker might be a great idea.

  4. Track blood work and measurements. Weekly track bodyweight and waist measurements. Every 3 months, track lipid profile (cholesterol levels) and blood sugar (including HbA1C) at least.

  5. See a doctor - eye, dentist, and a general physician - at least once a year.

  6. And a bonus - get a pet. If I need to explain, it won't work. Pets are awesome.

I think this is a great start!

It is hard for us to stick to our habits and move forward on our fitness journey. It is definitely a lot harder for people like our parents. But that does not mean it can be neglected.

If there's one takeaway from this post, it is that getting older is not the same as getting unhealthier. Anything can be worked on and improved.


Disclaimer: This is not meant to be health advice but mere suggestions based on what I've seen. Do consult a doctor where appropriate.