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Readers Respond: How Do You Give Exercise Advice?

Responses: 23


Updated September 22, 2009

If you're an exercise enthusiast (or, as some people call us, fitness freaks), you probably find that people come to you for exercise advice. You may also feel tempted to give exercise advice, even when it isn't asked for. How do you encourage the people you love to exercise without turning them off? Is there a right way to give exercise advice? Share your tips for how to give exercise advice. Share Your Tips

How I help myself

I have so many health issues:bipolar, GAD, non-diabetic neuropathy (basically chronic pain, esp. hands), more; but what I do to get my mind off myself & my troubles is volunteer in a support group for those w/mental health issues & most of them due to meds are overweight (I gained 50 lbs.). So I took under my wing a new young lady (26) just diagnosed w/bipolar I'm 60 & led her to the gym & explained how exercise is as important as medication & I needed someone, too, to be a support & motivation to show up at gym classes. So we are helping each other & I'm helping her cope w/the bipolar stuff & we are friends & can talk honestly about stuff that we "hide" due to stigma from others. Then since I am more financially stable & also having a wonderful, supportive husband of 40 yrs I've purchased a series of sessions w/a private trainer we do together. The exercise has been amazing in helping w/depression & even self-esteem (doing something that is hard for us). Working on diet.
—Guest Struggling

I keep trying.

I'm 61, have RA, plantar fasciitis, COPD plus several other conditions and overweight. I started lifting weights more then 30 years ago but each injury slowed me down and restricted my ability to move more each year. I do a Tai Chi routine every day, several times each day. I do a little weight lifting and calisthenics and I ride the exercise bike for 5 minutes at a time a couple times a day. It's very hard but if I injure myself and have to stop again as I have many times over the years, I don't know how much I will be able to do afterward. But I do not quit, I just keep trying.


I try and eat healthy to the best of my ability and budget. Excercize is a problem for me, I walk when I can and do isometrics but there are many days I cant do anything. I have had 5 knee surgeries on ea knee, I have degenerative disk disease and copd. so on days I can i do but it really irks me when someone who knows nothing about me or my situation walks up to me and says you know you would look better if you stood more than you obviously sit. or they assume if i am in line at a fast food place that i am getting junk, usually i am getting a water(its faster than going to a store). I have lost 25lbs but need to lose another 40 and i will continue to do my best, but if you want to turn someone away from whatever you think they should be doing get in their face and use your know it all words/voice and all they will think is another jerk who is pretending to know how to help.
—Guest jeanie


Be a living breathing example. Let your health and attitude do the talking!!!
—Guest dtbabs30@gmail.com

It is me.

Yup, I scored on all annoying tips. I know, I know, I am annoying. Defense: I have been an endurance athlete for 40 years, never been overweight and love to exercise. And I have seen that glazed look on folks faces as I tell another "guess what mountain I ran up today?" I admit to all the above. I apologize to all but did I tell you how many squats I did today? Geez, I a annoying. :)
—Guest crow

Be a Good Example

I have alot of overweight and unhealthy family and friends, but the only way they'll ever cahnge is if they find a reason to and see the fault in thier ways. They think its crazy that I eat healthily (and still have my chocolate!) and excersize but I think its crazy they don't. When they seek advice I am here to listen but you cant persuade someone who doesnt think they need help
—Guest Super Running girl

How to Give Exercise Advice

I give advice only if asked. It seems singularly obnoxious to approach a stranger and begin telling them that they ought to be walking, jogging, lifting, etc. If asked what I do, I tell them. If they say, 'oh I could never do that', I tell them that it is possible, if I did it anyone can, and, according to the situation, I have offered to help people either by working out with them or being someone they can counsel with. At the end of the day, advice is useless unless delivered to a willing listener. We all come to the different things in our lives at different times. And that requires a belief in yourself as to deserving something more, whether it is good health (through exercise and intake management), a family, greater work satisfaction or whatever it is in your life that you know needs strengthening.
—Guest Kim


I have lost 60lbs over the last 3 years from running and watching what I eat. A lot of people ask me about running and my diet. I have started a blog to document my progress and keep me motivated.
—Guest Art

Don't tell people what they want to here

Most people want you to tell them that losing weight is easy. I have had some people tell me "thanks for being honest with me". Sometimes you will find that some people really don't want to take the necessary steps that they need to take to lose the weight. You have to have your mind set on the big picture of it all and not look at the small setbacks that will happen from time to time. If you messed up really bad one day...don't get so frustrated that you want to give up. Just make sure that you have learned from your mistake and make it a point to do better the next day. Losing weight and getting in shape is a process that anyone can master if they truly put their mind to it. There will be those times when you just want to give up - this is a time when you will truly find out what you are made of.
—Guest Patrick Kallie

Giving Advice

Giving advice requires tact. One might say, for example, do you mind if I make a suggestion.... I am an inveterate advice giver. Though not a trainer, in the 45 years in which I've been exercising I have picked up a few notions of what's good and what's bad, especially with respect to form. I have paid the price (injuries) for a lack of knowledge. Whenever I see a novice performing an exercise incorrectly which may lead to an injury, I proffer the question: Do you mind...Usually they are looking for someone to show them the correct way of performing an exercise. In addition, I tell them why I believe that my suggestion will help. I have only found a couple of people who were annoyed and I henceforth ignore what they do. I have 3 basic rules for beginners: 1) good form is essential, 2) the exercise needs to be performed through the full range of motion while keeping the weight under control (otherwise too much weight), & 3) slow is better than fast.
—Guest Mike Doherty

Consider your audience . . .

As somebody who has lost 90 lbs in the last year, but with another 50-ish to go, I've received a LOT of unsolicited advice, some good, some bad. 1) Don't judge a book by its cover when giving advice. I work out 6 days a week, ran a half-marathon a couple of months ago, and am currently training for a triathlon. I find it fairly amusing and sometimes annoying when some "fitness freak" approaches me and tries to tell me that I should try walking at least 30 minutes a day. REALLY!?!! I try not to give advice unless I see someone doing something that is dangerous or harmful or they ask. And when they ask, I ALWAYS ask where they are in their fitness journey. 2) Tone is everything - don't be condescending and remember that what works for you doesn't work for everyone. There's a huge difference between nagging and expressing heartfelt concern. 3) Be cautious when offering advice. You don't know what kinds of injuries, illnesses, etc. that person is experiencing. You may harm more than help.
—Guest rogue1092

Giving advice

I am extremely fit and active. And love it. I also become so tired of hearing my friends and family whine about all the reasons they can't exercise and eat correctly. I use to try and help if asked and now I know they won't take advice and won't try to help themselves. They would rather go to a physician and say, "Fix me". I am 67 and train 20+ hours a week for various sports that I am involved in. If I had a dollar for every time a person said to me, "I wish I could do what you do and look that good at your age", I would be able to purchased that new kayak and bike! I try to explain, anyone can do this stuff, just get moving, and throw away the donuts. OK, off my soap box and off to bike the trails. :)
—Guest Crow

I'm working on it but I'm not dumb

I've been working out/eating right - off and on my whole life. I know the pit falls, the fad diets, the ways to move - I know the moderation and the mix workouts and all that jazz. I have lost 70 lbs in 4 years. Slow and steady. I know I'm not where I want to be yet, but whats the hurry? I'm working on it, why is that not good enough for the fitness freaks in my life who seem to think that I'm lazy and dumb? Why does every single conversation turn to what I could be doing, which makes me feel like I have to defend myself. What I am doing is perfect for me - I move and I eat the best I can. If it's good enough for the one doing it, it should be good enough for you. Don't preach at me. Let me ask you when I feel I need an answer. It's not like I hate advice when I ask for it. Just because I didn't lose it like you did doesn't mean I'm doing it wrong. In fact, I know I am doing it perfect because I see results, lasting results.
—Guest mama me-a

Ask First

As a personal trainer my approach with someone I see at the gym doing something wrong is would you like me to show you a better and safer way of doing that exercise? I usually do not interfere unless I am asked. Even if you show them; there is no guarantee they will change their way of doing it.

Healthy person

I've found that most people would rather complain about their poor health than actually make any changes. I met a man on a diet who didn't count the cookies he ate. So I try to smile and keep living my way.
—Guest Diana Christensen

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How Do You Give Exercise Advice?

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