How To Inspire A Friend or Loved One To Get Fit

Providing Support on a Fitness Journey


Who doesn’t have a friend or family member that could use some motivation to get fit and lose weight? With about two-thirds of the population overweight or obese, the majority of Americans probably aren’t exercising at all. We all know someone who’s in need of a healthy support system to get them going on their fitness journey.

The tricky part is that this can be a touchy subject. You may think “I don’t want to insult her or him,” or “maybe it’s none of my business.”

No, it IS your business if you care about this person and want him or her to be healthy and happy. Equipped with the right way to encourage and inspire your friend or family member to begin living healthy, you’ll find success and both you and your friend will be glad you made it your business.

Exercising As a Bonding Activity

A couple of years ago, a series of studies came out that showed that couples who work out together increase their chances of sticking to their exercise program by 90%! That’s a strong finding for the value of having a workout partner. When the American College of Sports Medicine released its top 20 fitness trends for 2015, group personal training made it into the top half of the list. One major fitness club in England studied 1,000 women and found that 64% of those who exercise together push themselves harder than when they do it alone. In fact, 31% of the women considered their friends to be the motivators they need to stay in good shape.

There’s definitely something to getting fit with friends and family that inspires and builds a healthy culture.

How to Be a Better Fitness Partner

Follow these tips to motivate and support those you care about in becoming more active:

  1. Practice your applauding and listening skills—that’s right, focus on what the other person is doing right that you can cheer about, NOT criticize, correct or preach. You are there to help, not to look down on them or build yourself up through them.

    An understanding ear, uhm, that’s E.A.R., means you Explore first. Ask your family member or friend open-ended questions about, for example, their lack of progress, such as “What’s been the obstacle for you?” or “How do you feel about starting a walking program with me?” Acknowledge what the other person says, by simply rephrasing or restating what he or she said, to demonstrate you are listening. Respond with what you are thinking or feeling. Be sure the other person confirms you understand him or her. When you exercise together, more than your skin pores open, so be sure your mind and your heart are opening to your friend as well.

  2. Do it together. Leading by example is key to help build their self-confidence. Eat with them, cook with them, shop with them. Show them that they can’t get hurt with you, or fail. Share how you made the decisions to be more active and overcame your obstacles. Show them you care about them, not their activity or diet, without judgment. Remember email, text messaging and phone calling? Connect regularly with someone you are encouraging and inspiring to be more active and eat well with a simple, “How’s it going today?” NOT, “Did you stay with our plan today?”

    You can take classes together, do treadmill side by side, stretch each other, guide each other on a Total Gym, and share workout playlists.

  3. Make it fun and rewarding. Create some enjoyable ways to make it a regularly routine such as daily stretching, with a low-risk “contest” to see who can come up with the most creative stretch – not who can stretch the most, or who ate the healthiest or lasted the longest on the treadmill. Think win-win, not win-lose. Working out with someone who is a little better stronger, has a little more endurance, can go a little faster can be motivating. Be sure the rewards are fun and meaningful. Sharing progress with others through social media may or may not be something your partner wants to do, so be sure you check first. Today, many fitness apps allow for social connection. The research has found that social features are motivating, trigger more action and improve ability through sharing information about workout routines, and new approaches to exercise.
  4. Protect yourself from losing your own motivation if your friend or family member is complaining or whining too much—you need to take care of yourself above all. Set time aside for your own workouts to be sure you stay in the best shape you can.

It’s well known that exercise is good for the body, soul and mind. Now you can see how for relationships. The home gym, the hiking trail, the track, the bike path, the community pool, and a host of other fitness sites in your neighborhood may just be the healthiest places for helping friends get fit and stay active.

Dr. Michael Mantell

Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D. has been providing psychological and coaching services for nearly 5 decades and continues to empower positive change among his global clients to enhance life in every way. He is a highly sought-after healthcare professional coach, an executive and team building consultant, and a longtime specialist in cognitive behavioral coaching.

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