One of the greatest retirement gifts you can give yourself is an early commitment to your health and fitness. Beyond the obvious benefits of feeling and looking your best, staying fit in retirement can help you live longer, save money, and make the most of every moment in your this new phase of life.
The benefits of staying fit as you age
When you exercise regularly and become stronger, your overall balance also improves. This will make you less vulnerable to falls and injuries. These send older people to the hospital for extensive (and expensive) in-patient stays on a regular basis.
Staying in shape will also empower you to take the once in a lifetime trips and pursue the more physically-demanding hobbies you’ve been dreaming about. After all, if your health issues make it difficult for you to stand or walk for extended periods of time, international travel and competitive sports are probably going to be taken off of the table.
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Finding a fitness routine that works for you
Even if you’ve never been a particularly athletic person, it is never too late to adopt a regular exercise routine.
We’ve compiled a few ideas for getting and staying in shape during your retirement, ranging from very low-investment & low-intensity activities like walking and gardening to higher-intensity, higher-investment activities like joining a sports team or building a home gym. This is not an end-all, be-all list; the key to sticking with a more active lifestyle is finding activities that you enjoy. If that means taking a ballet class, doing a four-minute tabata routine as soon as you wake up, or racing your dog to the mailbox every afternoon, more power to you! Any activity that gets you excited to get up on your feet is a-ok in our book.
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Getting from point A to point B
One of the best aspects of retirement is that life slows down a little. When you were working, it probably seemed like there was never enough time to accomplish all you needed to in a day. Rushing to get from point A to point B meant you spent a lot of time in your car. Now that there are less deadlines and important meetings crowding your schedule, you can approach transportation from a new perspective.
Whenever your destination is close enough, consider leaving your car parked and utilizing a mode of transportation that gets your heart pumping instead. If you’re meeting a friend at a neighborhood cafe a mile away, leaving a few minutes earlier to walk will give you a chance to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. If you have a doctor’s appointment across town, consider taking your bike. As an added bonus, uou won’t have to worry about finding a parking spot. If you make this a habit, you’ll also spend significantly less on gas and other upkeep costs of your vehicle.
Just make sure to be cautious when crossing streets in high-traffic areas. And if you do decide to bike (or rollerblade, or skateboard), wear your helmet and protective gear!
Make your household chores count
While it isn’t likely that you are particularly passionate about your daily or weekly chores, you might enjoy washing the dishes and vacuuming the carpets a bit more if you thought of them as opportunities for increasing your heart rate and burning some calories. Whether you decide to handle all of your chores in one fell swoop on Saturday mornings or you prefer to take care of one or two responsibilities per day throughout the week, consider putting on some energizing music and exerting yourself a bit more than you normally would as you do your housework.
Get out & get fit in the garden
Gardening is a great way to stay active and agile in retirement. While it might not seem like the most physically demanding hobby, maintaining a garden requires a certain level of fitness and a fairly wide range of motion. If you’ve ever planted flowers or picked tomatoes, you already know how quickly you can become drenched in sweat when you’re working out in your garden on a hot summer afternoon.
Take family time outside
If you have grandchildren, consider planning some outdoor activities to keep you busy during your visit. Flying a kite at the park, exploring the local botanical garden, or playing catch in your backyard are all less expensive options than seeing an afternoon movie, and keeping up with your younger family members will definitely provide a solid workout.
Get back in the game
Whether you’re looking to get back into a sport you played in your youth, or you’d like to try something totally new, getting involved with a local sports team, or taking on a solo sport– like golf, swimming, or long distance running– is relatively easy once you know what you want to do. If you want to be a part of a team that practices and plays regularly, look online or in the local newspaper to find senior sports teams in your area. If you’re looking for an opportunity to flex your muscles without making a regular commitment, you can practice your swing at the local batting cages, play a solo round of golf, or take a run on a local trail.
Join a gym
For a relatively small monthly investment, a gym membership can afford you access to a wide variety of fitness equipment and other resources. You’d be hard pressed to find a gym that didn’t have free weights and aerobic and weightlifting machines as part of their standard membership. If you’re lucky, your local gym might offer more premium amenities. Some gyms offer free classes, or access to a swimming pool or sauna as part of their basic package. If you’re serious about getting in shape, many gyms employ personal trainers that you can work with one-on-one for an extra hourly rate.
Build your own gym at home
If you’re hesitant to join a fitness club or class, consider building your own gym at home. The investment in a new treadmill or weight station might seem immense at first. However, it might be more cost effective than joining a gym in the long term. This is especially true if you commit to a regular exercise schedule.
Take a virtual fitness class
If you love instructor-led exercises like yoga or pilates, you don’t necessarily need to shell out hundreds of dollars to attend classes. If you have enough open space in your home, using a workout video can be just as effective. You can buy videos in stores or online, or you can stream them from your favorite video streaming service. There are plenty of exercise videos available on Netflix, Hulu, and even YouTube.
Setting a goal is easy. Many people invest hours mapping out an extensive exercise routine only to abandon it months or even just days later. When it comes to staying committed to those routines, however, that pool of people becomes much smaller. Making a major life change is not easy. Keeping your eye on the prize can be difficult, especially when you don’t see results right away. Here are some tips for holding yourself accountable and sticking with it for the long haul.
Set small and large goals for yourself
If you expect to accomplish your biggest fitness goals right away, you’re going to be disappointed. Don’t yourself become discouraged before you’ve even had a chance to get started. Instead, look for smaller goals to track your progress along the way. Let’s say you’ve committed to losing 20 pounds before your 65th birthday in a year. You might set a smaller goal to lose one pound per week for the next 6 months. These smaller goals will give you something to work toward in the short term. Before you know it, you’ll have met your goal with plenty of time to spare.
Set up a reward system for meeting your goals
The ultimate reward in reaching your fitness goals is that you will be healthier in your retirement years. Of course, sometimes it can be helpful to leave ourselves bread crumbs to keep us focused throughout the journey. You need to be careful to avoid on of the most common pitfalls here; the rewards you treat yourself to should not conflict with the goals themselves. For example, let’s say you successfully lose one pound each week for a month. You might be tempted to reward yourself with a decadent dessert. Don’t get us wrong: it is perfectly reasonable to indulge in a sweet treat now and then. However, you don’t want to correlate the hard work it took to lose that weight with an activity that, if abused, could thwart your progress. Instead, reward yourself with something that can help you reach your next goal. A new FitBit or the registration fee for a run you want to participate in, for example.
Take advantage of tools that can help
There is a whole industry dedicated to making the fitness journey as easy as possible. Some tools, like FitBits, food scales, and smart scales that track your biometrics can be expensive. However, there are plenty of helpful tools, resources, and apps that are 100% free. You can create an account on MyFitnessPal or LoseIt to track your calories, exercise, and weekly weigh-ins on your smartphone, and some of the newer coaching and training apps allow you to create custom workouts tailored to your personal goals.
Join forces with a buddy or two
If you work better on a team, consider linking up with some friends or coworkers with similar fitness goals. Having others on your side as you work towards your goals will help hold you accountable to your routine. And when the going gets tough, you’ll each have a built-in support system to see you through. Some groups even hold their own races or weigh-ins, gamifying the weight loss process. For highly competitive people, this can serve as extra motivation to stay on track. Whether you decide to bring a competitive element into your arrangement or not, there is often power in numbers when it comes to achieving fitness goals.