Posted by: drdata921 | August 31, 2013

Physical Fitness in Retirement is Your Key to Quality of Life

In this blog post, I will talk about one of my favorite topics: Physical Fitness. In my 50’s, after what was a “health crisis” wakeup call, I became a regular at the local gym. Physical fitness is important at any age. However, in your senior years it becomes a critical component of your quality of life.

Look around and you will find people who are clearly in shape and live an active and fulfilling life. You will notice others who have let themselves go and look and act 10 years older than they really are. As you age, this can come back to haunt you. It’s your choice: rich and healthy or sick and poor.

In this blog, I talk a lot about the financial aspects of retirement. As important as this is, what is the point if you are physically incapable of enjoying life because you are weak and unhealthy? Sure, it is a natural consequence of aging that you decline in your physical capabilities. However, there are degrees of decline and no reason that you can’t continue to enjoy an active and healthy life well into your later years. But, to do this you must actively take steps to keep yourself healthy. This includes both diet and exercise.

I must admit that I struggle with the diet part of the equation. I like wine and steak too much. However, the exercise part of the equation is something that I follow religiously. My normal schedule is five days a week for a vigorous one hour workout of cardio (running), strength machines, and sometimes free weights. When I am on plan (and I do slip sometimes) I both look and feel much better. I will admit that it requires a routine that must become part of your daily life. If it is something that you do occasionally, it is little more than self-torture and probably has limited health benefits. Also, you need to be aware that gym time may not be your only solution to physical fitness. Perhaps you enjoy a brisk walk of a couple of miles each day. Perhaps, your solution is to garden which can provide a lot of physical challenges. Maybe you like to cycle on a local bike trail. If doing penance in the gym is not for you, then look for other alternatives. Whatever your preference, some form of consistent physical activity is necessary for quality of life in retirement.

The running joke is that in January, because of New Year’s resolutions, the gym can become quite crowded. However, you always know that by early March, the crowds will have thinned out. The beautiful thing about retirement is that you have complete freedom to workout when you have the time. At this point in my life, I arrive at the gym at 5:00a because I need to get through the session so that I can go to work. When retirement comes, this will probably slide to 7:00a which is a much more civilized hour.

The Benefits of Physical Fitness Are Many

The most obvious are the health benefits. You can gain improved cardiovascular functioning, better muscle tone and endurance, and flexibility. In addition, exercise has been linked to stronger bones which means that you may be able to partially deal with osteoporosis (with the additional help of diet and medications). You will have greater agility, balance, and coordination. These are clearly the physical benefits – any question that these can lead to a better quality of life?

However, let’s not forget the psychological and social benefits as well. Studies have found that people who are physically fit have better self-esteem and less depression than those who don’t. If you look and feel good, why would you be depressed? Exercise also can be a social experience. There are group exercise sessions where you can meet people. There are runners clubs for people who want to jog together. Where I go, people use this for an occasion to socialize. In fact, some socialize so much in the gym, you sometimes wonder whether they are there to workout or to socialize – sometimes it is hard to tell.

In retirement, physical fitness becomes a particularly important determinant of your quality of life. You don’t have to be a gym rat to reap the benefits, but you do need to make exercise a part of your daily routine. My philosophy: You can live your senior years healthy, wealthy, and wise OR sick and poor. Which do you prefer?



  1. Thanks for the food for thought. We’ve been really focused on planning for retirement (see ‘Under the Spell of Retirement’
    ,) and occasionally it does cross my mind that the most essential part of our plan is that both of us need to be around to enjoy it!

    While there are no guarantees in life, the wise path seems to be to pay some attention to diet and exercise as well as nourishing your relationship with your spouse. Raising kids can put pressure on finances, intimacy and healthy living!

    • Absolutely! Retirement is clearly a different phase of life, much different from previous phases. When it began to hit me that I was entering a new phase was when we became “empty nesters.” Life changed so drastically in a short time and I started to dread the next stage. However, the more I researched and thought about it, the more I saw retirement as a welcome and exciting new phase. Health is a major part of this, so it all fits together. Good luck to you as you transition!

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