While there is a plethora of informationout there about how to properly plan for financial retirement, it is equally, if not more, important to invest time and resources in developing an effective exercise plan as we age.
The health benefits of exercise are well-known and the time to start is now.
I’m going to share a little secret. Your personal exercise plan does not have to be overly time-consuming nor intimidating in any way. The key to success is to choose exercise that you enjoy. It’s as simple as that. If you’re not having fun – despite the best of intentions – you will not persist and you will quit as soon as the first lame excuse pops us. Trust me on this.
Approaching retirement age, I recently switched from an office job in public relations to working freelance from home, affording me much more flexibility in my daily schedule. This lifestyle change greatly expanded my options for incorporating more exercise into my day, at times that best work for me.
My absolute first choice when it comes to exercise is swimming. Growing up in Massachusetts, near beautiful beaches, I’ve always loved to swim – in any body of water – ocean, lake or pool. I currently have a yearly membership at an indoor pool near my house and I try to go almost every day. I often meet my sister there and we generally swim laps for about 40 minutes and then catch up on news while soaking in the warm, bubbly jacuzzi afterwards.
This is what I mean about having fun. Besides the swimming, I enjoy meeting friends in the locker room, listening to my favorite music on my water MP3, and alternating some of the laps using my swimming “toys” – flippers, kick board and hand-weights.
Next in line after swimming, walking always works for me. It’s free, available 24/7 and takes no preparation except putting on my sneakers, applying sun block and grabbing a bottle of water. I prefer to walk outside, rather than on a treadmill, enjoying the fresh air and open sky and seasonal perks, such as splashing through puddles on a rainy day, crunching leaves in autumn and trudging through snow in winter. I sometimes walk alone, sometimes with my husband, sometimes with a friend, and sometimes pushing a grandchild in a stroller. It’s all very spontaneous. Every now and then, I attempt to sprint for a few minutes which is fun and adds a little challenge. I’m considering joining a running group, but for now, a brisk half hour walk is sufficient to put me in a good mood and add some healthy color to my cheeks.
When I was younger, I played tennis, basketball and other sports. These days, the only ball I play is the one I squeeze and bounce on during classes at my local fitness center. The classes that I most enjoy there are pilates, zumba-gold (gold means it’s geared for the 50+ age group), body-sculpting, and I’ve recently discovered yoga which I absolutely love, especially the amazing “relaxation”segment at the end of class. The instructors are superb, the background music is pleasant and I like being part of a group. I will occasionally attempt the more difficult aerobic classes, but I don’t particularly enjoy turning purple or getting out of breath, so I tend to avoid those classes. That’s OK. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone.
So when those numbers start creeping up on my scale and my clothes start feeling snug at the waistline, rather than deprive myself of that delicious banana muffin (I hate dieting, doesn’t everyone?), I prefer to burn calories by pumping-up my exercise regimen. It’s fun, it gets my endorphins flowing, keeps my blood pressure and cholesterol in check, boosts my immunity and tones my body.
Don’t be afraid of new challenges. Maybe go back to something you enjoyed as a child or take a class to learn a new skill or improve a current skill. There are so many options – bike riding, ice skating, salsa dancing, hiking, mountain climbing. OK I was just kidding about the mountain climbing. It’s not going to happen. Not for me anyway. Not in this lifetime. But maybe for you.
I would like to point out that as we age, it’s extremely important to listen to our bodies in order to avoid injury. If it feels good, however, keep on doing it. While in the past the mantra was “no pain, no gain,” the new mantra is, “if there’s pain, refrain.”
So remember to always choose exercise that you enjoy. You will look great and feel great.Rather than dreading the time spent exercising, you will begin to look forward to it and it may even become the highlight of your day.
Plus, after a vigorous work-out, there is no need to deprive yourself of that delicious banana muffin. Enjoy it guilt-free. You earned it!