September 10, 2012

Are You Fit Eough for Retirement?

While I am on vacation in northern Arizona deciding if an RV lifestyle is right for Betty and me, Stan Cohen from ChiForLiving  has offered this guest post on physical fitness and its role in living a satisfying retirement. After the post of a week or so ago about good health and enough water intake, I think Stan's article make a nice addition.

The issue of staying fit enough to enjoy retirement is an important one. Not all of us can ride a bike 20 miles, hike up and down a mountain, or even swim enough laps to get our heart rate up. But, we can walk a few blocks, or do simple stretching exercises. Maybe we can lift an old milk jug that is half filled with water a few times to keep arm muscles active. There are web sites specializing in simple exercises that only need a chair. It doesn't really matter what you do- just do something. Here are Stan's thoughts:

Aging and retirement go hand in hand. Most of us prepare heavily in the financial planning end of making sure we are financially fit to carry out our plans.

Often overlooked is the physical side of the equation which begs the question: “are you physically fit enough for retirement?” You may have the funds to travel, spend time playing golf or working in your garden, hiking or whatever your picture of a Satisfying Retirement is, but are you fit enough to carry out those plans for the long term?

Have you made plans to keep yourself fit as you continue to age, not only to live out your plans, but for the unexpected as well? Keep in mind that many in retirement end up as the caregiver for their spouse, and in many cases end up caring for their parents with their spouse helping out.

In the last few years working with the senior population I have run across a huge contingent of retirees who are their parents' caregivers. There is also a tremendous number who see it coming as our boomer population ages and we start taking care of our parents who, by the way, are living longer and expect help from us.

A few of the major issues of care giving I hear about are burnout, anger, frustration, exhaustion, boredom, of course love, and loneliness. Most have aches and pains from being constantly on their feet running here and there, lifting, bending, carrying, cleaning and all the other movements associated with the daily grind of assisting an older person. The older and more fragile, the more work involved. My own mother in law for example was dead weight and much heavier for her size then she should have been.

For a current caregiver I would ask you to step back and assess how you approach this. My wife and I tag-teamed her mother’s caregiving quite often. Luckily I was here and able to help with some of the heavy lifting and spot checks. We shared cooking duties and house chores at both homes. I was able to spell my wife for enough time for her to get in some treadmill work to burn off the stress to some degree.
Do you have someone you can ask for help? Remember, although you choose to do this, you should not have to take the full brunt. If at all possible get your family to help and allow you some personal time. Any muscle needs recovery from overuse and most of yours will be beyond overuse.

Now, let me ask; “what do you do to keep yourself in shape for what lies ahead in your retirement years”?

· Do you stretch at night and in the morning to loosen up?

· Do you do any form of exercise to burn off the stress that can wreck havoc with your body?

· Do you eat right to keep your system functioning properly

· Do you remember to drink enough fluids so you don't dehydrate (or do you run on coffee alone to keep going?)

If you already exercise and keep yourself in shape, hats off to you and keep going! If you are overweight and tire easily or have fears of the potential downsides I mentioned, yet still want to care for mom or simply have the Satisfying Retirement lifestyle you wished for, then get busy training for it. Walk more, climb some stairs, do more chores and get busy practicing what you say you "want to do ". You very well may want to consult your physician and see if you should take any special precautions or do some specific exercises before beginning a program.

In any case, I would recommend some Tai Chi, Qigong or Yoga and an occasional massage to help with your overall well being while enjoying your aging and Satisfying Retirement lifestyle.


Thanks again to Stan for his thoughts. His website is ChiForLiving. He believes you are never too old to start getting fit. Click the link for some practical things you can do.

Stan is also the driving force behind the Modern Maturity Net, which often reruns my posts. He has been a steady supporter of this blog since the beginning.

As a disclaimer, I have not been compensated for this guest post.


  1. Bob,
    Two years ago at age 57, I decided to do something about my "declining" health. I remembered how much I enjoyed biking as a younger person, and with the support of my wife, I bought a bike. It helps that the community I live close to, Norman, OK, is a college town, hence bicycling abounds. I would recommend this exercise for anyone able. It is, I'm told, the best all around exercise older folks can do. It's easy on the knees and other joints, and most everyone has the ability to bike at least a little.
    After I got the bike, I found out other guys my age also biked! We now have a "club," tongue-in-cheek, called the GBC, Geezer Bicycle Club. We enjoy riding together most every Saturday morning, sometimes an easy ride, sometimes vigorous, but all the time loads of fun. My A1C has dropped dramatically, and my stamina has increased. I highly recommend this to anyone!

    1. I anticipate bikes being part of our RV travel. Towing a car is too cumbersome for me to feel comfortable. Bikes seem to make much more sense. Where we live there are bike paths but the traffic is non-stop and the scenery doesn't make it all that enjoyable. So, getting out in the country on bikes sounds very attractive to us.

      I like the name of your group, Jeff.

  2. Not quite retired but moving in that direction. I have always been more "in shape" than most, and exercise has been a lifelong passion for me. Staying in shape for retirement is not an issue. In fact, during retirement I expect to go back to sports I have given up over the last 10 plus years due to work schedule, including competitive running (State Senior Olympics for example) as well as softball and/or basketball. In the meantime I run and lift weights, as well as other exercising such as long walking spells and the like.

    I have noticed how difficult it is for others to stay active, especially those who have not been on an active exercise regimen earlier in life. Occasionally you will meet someone who was largely sedentary but really picked it up when they retired, but they are few and far between. The premise of the article, to start getting in retirement "shape" before retiring, is right on the money. It is never too soon, or too late for that matter, but the earlier one starts the better off they will be, in many ways.

    1. I have lost and kept off about 20 pounds since my high point about 7 years ago. A combination of more exercise, smaller portions, and better food choices have helped. I must admit, however, there are days I feel more lethargic than I'd prefer. I know exercise would boost my energy but I have to kick myself out of the chair.

    2. Bob, I am an early riser so my regular workout regimen (weights or running) starts normally around 0500-0530 or thereabouts. It is very peaceful then on the road, and if doing weights I have CNBC on. It might be easier to motivate yourself if it is done before other activities "get in the way".

      Wish I could do the biking like Anonymous does, since I have a good bike from my NY days, but there is no shoulder to speak of on the roads near the development, and drivers tend to stray over the lines anyways. I'll have to come up with something else.

  3. I know when I am physically active, I feel better, not only physically but emotionally as well. I feel more resilient and have more energy.

    As you suggest, I do stretch every morning, and most mornings I follow that with some meditation. I practice tai chi and other martial arts, both at home and in classes. I find that the tai chi is helping my knee stay strong and in less discomfort.

    Practicing martial arts has actually increased my bone density, according to periodic tests. That was an unanticipated bonus!

    So having written this, I am motivated to go out in the back yard and practice!

    1. Steve's suggestion to stretch is a good one...and something I don't do nearly often enough. I just have never developed the habit.

  4. Bob,
    I totally agree with Jeff about biking. In just the short while that Malcolm have been riding we have already noticed a decrease in weight and improved leg strength. Malcolm sustained a knee injury (playing tennis) a while back that still has not healed, but biking does not seem to aggravate it. In fact, I think it might actually be helping.

  5. I'm so glad to see someone else practices tai chi, Galen! I've been taking classes for 3 and a half years and also practice at home. For me it's a form of moving meditation, plus the stretching and breathing involved.

    About 5 years ago, my own father started having trouble with his hips and has had 2 hip replacements due to arthritis. He also has neuropathy so badly in his hands and feet that he can't feel anything in those areas. He's 87 now but his health issues made me realize where I could end up someday if I didn't start exercising more.

    I've always been a walker all my life but 5 years ago I joined the Y and now do yoga and water aerobics, as well as walking my dogs daily.

    Having my dad as an example of where I don't want to end up has spurred me on to take really good care of myself.


    1. I know very little about tai chi. I had looked at a beginner's DVD about yoga and knew my body couldn't bend like that. I gather tai chi is easier for aging bodies. So many folks have mentioned it I should learn more about it. Galen, for one, is a big believer in it.

  6. I do yoga,walking and exercise with wts. I also added pilates. I enjoy this so I always make time for it. It helps if you can find something you really like.
    Yoga can be done by anyone. If you have limited mobility, there is chair yoga.
    Some people like to have an exercise buddy.

  7. Hi Bob, You should check out your local rec centers or YMCA's for a tai chi class. There is one lady in my advanced class who is 80 and she's been doing tai chi for 20 years. She said she chose it as an exercise because it seemed like one she could do into old age. She is very vibrant and has great balance.

    I agree with Donna about yoga. If you find a beginner class or even get a beginner dvd and practice on your own, you'll find you have much greater flexibility.

    1. Donna & Joan,

      Thanks for your suggestions. I have put a beginner's Tai Chi DVD on hold at the library to get a feel for what it is all about. Chair yoga sounds interesting. I'll take a look at that, too.


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