My father is in his late 60s. He has problems with pain in his spine. Yet his lifestyle is not very active. He doesn't move a lot and spends a lot of time watching TV. I think his muscles will be weakened this way and it won't be good for his spinal problem. How can I make him exercise regularly to strengthen himself and have a better life?

I think at this age it might be more difficult for him to do normal exercises. Please also take that into account.

  • 1
    He is at such age where he might not even want to exercise anymore. Years ago i tried to get my father to start running with me but he said he has ran more than enough during his life. You can't really make anyone exercise against their will. Maybe try a sport like tennis, table tennis, that both of you could play together and have fun.
    – s3v3ns
    Apr 2, 2015 at 10:24
  • Consider introducing a goal that inherently requires exercise, like going on a lots-of-walking vacation together. Or maybe a group exercise. Try to figure out something that he'd be interested in doing consistently that requires and provides exercise.
    – Eric
    Apr 2, 2015 at 16:15
  • The dog. The dog. Really, give him a young dog as a present. Taking care of the dog implies going out for a walk three times a day, plus a lot of playing and movement at home.
    – Mephisto
    Apr 5, 2015 at 7:44

3 Answers 3


First, and foremost, you may not be able to force him to exercise. You don’t indicate how long he’s been plagued by spinal pain, but, he may also be dealing with depression from chronic pain. It’s widely accepted that the two can feed off of each other. That, in itself, is enough to blunt any desire to get up off the couch. If you can, try to get a gauge of his mental state.

Early on, I had experienced spinal pain (from a hereditary condition) that was only resolved by surgery. My physical therapist advised me that the quality of my life, going forward, would increase by learning how to manage pain. He indicated the best way to do that is to continue with a daily stretching and flexibility program that I have followed ever since. Your father should benefit from such a program in multiple ways. Beyond the pain management aspect, there’s also the increase in balance and the prevention of falls. As you are probably aware, falls are a serious problem for older, inactive adults. They can lead to serious life threatening conditions.

As others have already stated, don’t expect him to exercise on his own. A good support system is needed to provide motivation and camaraderie. Ask if he would like to start walking. Look at it as an opportunity to share time together. Or, if you have a local community center, bring him for a tour. Community centers typically offer programs targeted at elder citizens.

Lastly, be patient with him. If exercise was not part of his life early on, he’s facing a new challenge. He’ll need your help to face it.


You already have some good suggestions so I'll just add a few more. The best way that you can be supportive is to help him find a good physical therapist. The therapist will evaluate your father's spinal condition, give him specific exercises to correct his problems and determine what the most effective exercise program for him might be.

Types of exercises that are low impact can be easier on the spine such as aquatic exercise, swimming, walking with a pedometer for motivation, walking in chest deep water, walking with poles, stationary or recumbent cycling, yoga, Tai Chi or Qi Gong.

The best role you can take is supportive. You could go with your dad to therapy and help him follow thru with his therapist's suggestions. His therapist will be the one to instruct him about how often to get up out of the chair and give him the rationale to get moving. What a professional tells your dad will have more impact on him than what you tell him. So just be there to help. Good luck.


As noted by s3v3ns above, it's very hard to "force" someone to exercise. Your best bet is probably to find some low impact activities to do together, or for him to do with others. You could go on walks with him. He could join a Tai Chi group at a local community center. You want to create a situation where there are few barriers to him doing exercise (low impact helps combat arguments of not feeling tip-top that day, for example) and setting up a routine with support structure (taking regular walks with you or attending classes makes it a scheduled activity and brings on social pressure).

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