When we first got married, my husband rode his bike all over town and had very low cholesterol. I couldn't have been more surprised when, 15 years into our marriage, we learned his cholesterol was too high. Even though he still looked great, the years of working a desk job had taken a toll on his health.

I thought the bad news about his cholesterol would motivate him to exercise, but between his job and our busy life with the kids, he didn't often make the time to exercise. I decided to help him get excited about fitness.

Here are some things that worked

Walk the walk, literally

Around the time I started to worry about my husband's health, I set a goal to get in better shape. I thought I was getting fit for myself, but it turned out that my actions motivated my husband to start walking every day during his lunch hour.

Jonathan Roche, a fitness coach in Boulder, Colo., says "Being an example of health is the best way to motivate a spouse to get healthier. You won't have to nag or brag about the changes you're making; simply let your spouse decide on his own to follow your lead."

Make it fun

If I make it fun, my husband will exercise with me. Remember that there are many different ways to get exercise. Going to the gym is not a requirement.

Try to find activities you both enjoy that involve movement, for example:

  • Have a race

  • Play four square

  • Chop wood

  • Ride bikes

  • Jump on a trampoline

  • Play kickball

  • Walk a dog (your own or your neighbor's)

  • Go hiking

  • Throw a Frisbee

  • Work in a garden

My husband and I enjoy playing basketball and dancing in the living room with our children. We would do those things even if they didn't make us healthier.

Start small

A study conducted at the University of Texas in 2011 found that even 15 minutes of exercise a day can add years to your life. If your spouse hasn't been exercising regularly, start out slow with easy exercises, then gradually build up to longer, more challenging routines. Exhaustion and sore muscles aren't great motivators compared to the energy boost that comes from exercising at an appropriate level.

Let your spouse know you care

Your spouse doesn't want to hear a lecture about how he needs to exercise. On the other hand, loving words can be great motivators. You might try something like:

"Honey, I appreciate all you do for me, but I don't think you take enough time for yourself. I want you to be around for a long time. What can I do to help?"

A few simple steps on my part made a big difference in my husband's health. In the past three years, he's lost weight and become healthier. Life still keeps him busy, but his fitness routine gives him the energy he needs to thrive.

If you're concerned about your spouse's fitness level, be the one to set an example of health. Plan fun, short activities that include movement, and let your spouse know how much you care.

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