One essential element to a living a fulfilling fun retirement is good health. We all know as we age we begin to lose some of that youthful strength and stamina we took for granted not so many years ago. Little things can become challenging from ascending that oh-so-familiar flight of stairs to picking up a dropped set of keys. No one ever said getting old was easy.
The reality of aging is what it is but we need not surrender without a fight. To be the best we can during our second act we should get serious about doing those things that are part of a healthy lifestyle, starting now. Make sure you are healthy enough to exercise then get to it.
Cover all the bases
As we age staying healthy requires we address three important areas:
– Cardio – we need to keep our heart healthy. When younger running was a great way to go and for many it still can be. But I know my knees appreciate my focus on less impactful alternatives. Walking is a great option – if you can throw in a few hills so much the better. Biking is another and if the roads scare you stationary pedaling is an option that works for me. Swimming is as low impact as you can get and still gets your heart pumping.
– Strength – those of us over fifty need to maintain muscle and bone strength as we age. I have been lifting weights since I was in college and although the amounts are decreasing I continue my regimen twice a week. It might help to find a trainer at the local gym to help create a personalized routine. Make sure you learn how to do the exercise correctly or you may do more harm than good.
– Flexibility and balance – older folk fear falling more than almost anything. Broken bones can quickly change your life for the worse. Work on improving your balance through things like yoga whether attending a class or watching videos. Try to fit in regular stretching to help stay limber. Pilates is an interesting combination of stretching and strength building you may enjoy.
Create a routine
I think it is safe to say most people do not enjoy exercising. Those hours of sweating and extra effort, constant struggles to avoid doing the wrong thing, turning down that so tasty looking dessert – all this for the greater good of living healthy. If it was easy everyone would be healthy.
Have a regular schedule and routine to help maintain your focus.
– Are you a morning or an evening person? Rather than fight your nature try to exercise when you are most in the mood.
– Are there particular days of the week when working out is challenging due to work or your schedule? Commit to those other days to get it done.
– Are you a procrastinator? If so do your best to get it done first thing so you can focus on what you would rather be doing.
Focus on living the right lifestyle not quick fixes
It seems every six months some new diet fad comes along. The particular diet du jour promises amazing results in no time at all – anyone can do it. Ranging from high fat to no fat, no carbs to just carbs, veggie only, meat only – it is easy to become confused. The problem all these programs have in common is they are short-term fixes only. Most of the recommended diets can be downright unhealthy if pursued long term.
If you want to control your weight and feel the best you can you need to live a lifestyle supporting those goals. Moderation is the mantra. Avoid too much of anything and focus on a little of everything. On the other hand a little splurge is not the end of the world. There is nothing wrong with occasionally treating yourself. My weakness is wine – nothing but empty calories but oh does a nice Pinot Noir taste glorious!
10,000 steps each day
I recently heard of a health-focused idea to target 10,000 steps each day. We each have different strides but for me that translates into about five miles. At first that sounded impossible but with a little effort I get pretty close to the daily marker. My doctor loves it and there is a feeling of accomplishment come days end having achieved my step goal.
Don’t look for the easy way
Rather than look for the path of least resistance why not try putting out a little extra effort? Walk to the post office rather than drive. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. While watching TV stretch or do some sit-ups or throw around a few weights. If you are waiting in line or traffic do some abdominal crunches or a few squats. If you maintain a focus on fitness you can find surprising ways to put dead time to good use.
Include variety to keep it interesting
Doing the same thing over and over tends to get old. If you hope to stick with your program of healthy living it helps to incorporate as many diverse activities as you can. Mix it up – try new things. There are plenty up and coming exercise/fitness programs to explore from barre to spin classes to jazzercise (is that still out there?) to circuit training. Find something you enjoy so you have the motivation to keep at it.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
There was a time when my chest stood out beyond my stomach. I used to be able to…(fill in the blank). I wish I could still… Comparing who you are today to who you were decades ago is not going to end well. Times have changed. You have changed.
It is not easy to face the reality that I am not physically the guy I was at 25 (heck 45!). Gravity sucks – literally. The years have taken a toll. But then I step back and realize I am not the first person to face this reality. Many have gone before me and survived similar challenges. They have learned to accept aging for what it is – just another chapter in the book of life.
Living a healthy lifestyle allows you to make the most of your retirement. You feel good and look good. You may not have the same stamina you once did but that is okay. It is important we accept some limitations that come with aging. On the other hand we have the power to influence those limitations by taking care of ourselves, body and mind. Enjoy the journey and stay healthy.
Written for Snider Advisors