“When you go from age 67 to 68, it’s not really one year, physically. It’s more than one year.”
As a former college athlete, Denny Smith knows what it feels like to be in shape. Now, the Ohio retiree has made it his mission to stay active as he enjoys retirement.
Three days a week, you can find him at his local community center participating in a CrossFit-inspired workout class, led by a certified personal trainer. Planks. Squats. Weights. Agility drills. You name it, he’s probably tried it over the last 2½ years.
What inspired him to put his body through such routine rigor, even as he gets older?
“I wanted to do this because, right now, I can.Eventually, I know I won’t be able to.”
Smith is onto something. As we age, our bodies lose muscle mass, our vision gets poorer and medications can cause fatigue, all of which can lead to falling down, the most common cause of injury in people age 65 and older.
But there is a way to help slow down these effects of Father Time: Research has shown that regular exercise is the key to helping fight some of the most common ailments associated with aging, including heart disease, diabetes, anxiety, and hip fractures.
Smith agrees with these findings: “To me, this class is counteracting the aging process. I truly feel I’m in as good as shape as I was 10 years ago, when I was 58.”
But his dedication to fitness places him in the minority. Just 33% of Americans 65 and older are considered physically active versus 80% of the overall population.
So, while we’re not doctors, we implore you to make your health as big a retirement priority as your money. Try using these four tips to get in shape – no matter your physical ability or condition.
1. Establish goals
Just as you should have financial and investment goals, you should have physical goals, as well.
According to federal guidelines, all adults should get at least 2½ hours of ‘moderately-intense’ physical activity (such as brisk walking) or 1¼ hours of ‘vigorously-intense’ activity (such as jogging or swimming) every week.
Need help? Try the SMART method. Any goal you make should be:
Here’s an example:I want to walk one mile, three days a week, over the next six months. Then I want to walk two miles, four days a week, for the following six months.
But the key is to ease into any activity. Don’t go from 0 mph to 100 mph right off the bat.
If you hate the workout you’re doing, you won’t keep doing it. Continue experimenting until you find something you like.
Don’t know where to begin? Ask your local community center or gym about the classes they offer. Smith has tried yoga, a ‘butts & guts’ class, a TRX Strength Bands class, and even aquatic cycling. He’s also started playing slow-pitch softball again.
As we get older, our bodies take longer to recover from physical activity, so be sure you allow yourself plenty of recovery time. AARP recommends taking at least one day off every week; but stay attuned to your body – you may need more downtime.
4. Consider hiring a personal trainer
Just as a financial advisor can create a personalized plan for your financial life, a personal trainer can create a personalized plan for your body. A trainer takes into consideration your age, health, personal goals and abilities, and can design specific workouts to help your body increase its balance, mobility, and strength.
Even more important? A trainer can also hold you accountable.
And while the average cost for a personal trainer in the U.S. is between $40-$70 an hour,don’t assume staying fit is always that expensive. Group classes are usually cheaper.
In Denny Smith’s case, Medicare’s SilverSneakers program pays for his community center membership. His specialized class costs just $8 each session, or $2 a session if he pays on an annual basis.
If your goal is to live a fulfilling retirement, regular exercise is a key factor,no matter if your goal is to walk around the block or become one of the growing number of retirees running marathons and triathlons.
Your efforts will likely be rewarded, just as Smith has seen: “I feel better physically; I feel better mentally. I can do things around the house that other guys my age can’t do, I can help my nephew on his farm. And everything you read, it says you should stay active in retirement. Why not do it if you can?"