Figuring how to motivate your spouse to exercise without taking a left turn into resentful territory, can be tricky, very tricky. How do you express concern without judgment? What is the perfect balance between encouraging and nagging? Can you ever suggest a change in diet? We’ve put together some tips to help guide you to a path to healthier coupledom:

Understand why they aren’t motivated to exercise ?

The first step in helping someone get motivated to do anything is finding out what is at the root of their inactivity. Ask your spouse what is holding them back from living a more active lifestyle. Are they too intimidated to step foot into a gym? Are they working their way through anxiety or depression? Or have they just never thought of themself as an athletic type? By talking it through, you are letting your partner know that there is no shame in vulnerability and that you are willing to meet them where they are. You will be most helpful in getting your spouse over the motivation hurdle when you understand what is standing in their way.

Be conscious of your approach

When it comes to actually talking to your spouse about upping their physical activity, it is all in the approach. Start by asking them if they are interested in working out,  rather than pushing them to get active. By asking a question and not dictating to them what you’d like to see happen, you will have to accept their answer- and that answer just maybe, “no” for right now. Even with a “no,” don’t shy away from being persistent. Let your partner know they are important to you, and be clear that seeing them mentally and physically healthy is your only goal.

Motivate your spouse to exercise by leading by example

Do you want to know how to motivate your spouse to exercise? Start by actively working towards your own fitness goals. Studies show that we are far more likely to adopt positive, healthy behaviours if our partner has already done so. Leading by example also allows us to approach our partners with some much-needed empathy. As in, you will already know all about the ups and downs of a fitness journey, so you just might cut your partner some slack on leg day.

 By trying it out first, you get to invite your partner to join you for your favourite workout, hopefully making the prospect of getting started a little less daunting. Try asking your partner to be your accountability buddy for all things exercise-related. Accountability is critical for reaching fitness goals, and having another person keep you on track will only get you there quicker. Lead by example; show your partner that it’s ok to need support by letting them know you want theirs.

how to motivate your spouse to exercise
Photo by S’able Labs

Remember to ease into it 

Allow your partner to ease into their fitness journey slowly. You may want to bring them to your favourite Barry’s class on day one, but consider holding off. Pushing too hard too quickly can act as a demotivator and discourage your partner from coming back. Focus on making gradual, sustainable healthy lifestyle changes. Day one of your couple’s workout is a great time to tap into the empathy mentioned above; we all have to start somewhere.

Tailor your workout styles

Most people will do anything to avoid the potential of embarrassment, so it’s no wonder that fitness newbies avoid packed classes. Encourage your partner to start with an activity they are good at and actually enjoy. Try finding accessible workouts to do together; this can be anything from dancing in your living room to going on a long bike ride.

Set fitness goals together

It’s hard to hear the words “Have you thought about going to the gym?” and not feel judged. One very positive way to take the heat off your spouse is by setting goals together. This means having each other’s support throughout your fitness journeys, from making healthy food choices to getting out of bed to work out. There is no greater impediment to your training progress than watching your partner eating a cheeseburger on the couch as you head to the gym. Sharing goals means that you will be more considerate of their day-to-day challenges. And there will be plenty of challenges.

Your spouse has to want it for themselves

In the end, when it comes to how to motivate your spouse to exercise, you can only push someone so far; they have to want it for themselves. Remember that although you want what’s best for your partner, you are not responsible for their well-being; that’s their job. All you can do is uplift and empower your spouse to make healthier decisions. The hope is that eventually, they won’t need your motivation to get started but instead appreciate your encouragement to keep going.