How Fitness is Essential – To Enjoying an Active Retirement
Or even getting to a healthy retirement.
Vince wanted to fulfill a lifelong dream of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
Sheba (below) wanted to participate with her son, a Special Olympian, and inspire other women to exercise.
Ari wanted to lose weight and get healthy enough to play with his grandkids.
What do these 60-somethings have in common? They all relied on exercise to help them enjoy their lives as fully as possible. From reaching “bucket list” goals to living their best lives every day, seniors are finding more and more that exercise isn’t really about fitness.
Exercise is really about living well, enjoying yourself, and staying healthy, even as you get older.
When someone starts telling you how great fitness is, it’s only natural for you to mentally check out of the conversation.
“Fitness? Who cares about fitness,” you might think. “I’m finally retired and I want to do what I want to do!”
But if your body isn’t functioning at its best, you won’t be able to do much at all.
Make the Most of Your Time
By retirement age, most north Americans have spent 90,000 hours working, 2,400 hours in traffic, and up to six months waiting in various lines.
If you’re like them, you’ve put off vacations and purchases, deferred pleasure and – in many cases – picked up some bad health habits over the decades.
Who can blame you? It’s the inevitable outcome of the Rat Race. During your working years, you were working.
You were working all the time, it seemed. Or picking up the kids, or taking care of the home.
And now… Now you’re retired, or getting close to that magic moment, and your time is more at your disposal.
Most retired adults have no intention of sitting on the couch and pulling the blinds. You still want to travel, to play with the grandkids, to enjoy hobbies and sports, to keep your stress and blood pressure low, to manage chronic health conditions and avoid injuries.
You want health, longevity and more awesome life experiences, many of them with younger generations of your family.
In short, you want to enjoy this stage of life as much as possible.
Yes, yes, of course, you might say – But what does that have to do with fitness?
It’s All About Functioning
Simply put, you need your body to function if you want to continue enjoying life as fully as possible.
As we age, north Americans are more susceptible to falls, injuries, high blood pressure, pulled muscles and general lack of stamina.
Any of those can inhibit your ability to travel, golf, play with children or feel confident in social settings.
So, what does it mean to be fully functioning?
It means you’re strong, flexible and in good cardiovascular health. It means not carrying around too much extra weight. It means your sense of balance is good enough to keep you from falling, and your muscles are able to move you around safely.
Functional fitness doesn’t mean you have to live at the gym and become a body builder or aerobics fanatic.
It just means you respect your body enough to take care of it, so you can do what you want to do.
‘I’m Too Young for That’
That’s definitely the case for countless seniors who live a healthy lifestyle, including Vince, Sheba and Ari.
“The main thing is movement,” Sheba says. “It’s so important to just do some kind of movement.”
They’re not alone, or even that unusual.
We know Joanne, who hiked across Europe with her family in her 80s – and she has Parkinson’s disease.
Lance, 84, uses the same workout as the Purdue University football team.
And Frank, 51, just ran the annual Fourth of July 10K in Atlanta for the 10th straight year, despite a recent ankle injury.
As for Ari, he lost the weight, retired, and relocated to be nearer his grandchildren. Sheba continues to coach woman and accompany her son to events. And Vince made it all the way to the top of Africa’s tallest mountain.
“That really pushed my limits,” said Vince (above, on Kilimanjaro), who has worked for 35 years in the oil fields of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. “I’ve always been really active and competitive, but after I turned 55 or so, things got harder. But you know, I’m not going to let that stop me from living, man! I’m too young for that.”
Get Up, Stand Up – Sitting Too Much Can Make You Old
The bad news about sitting just keeps coming in.
We’ve been told in recent years that too much sitting can increase the risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and a bunch of other problems.
In one study, scientists looked at 1,500 older women to compare sedentary seniors with more active peers. They found that the more sedentary group had cells that were eight years older than the more active women.
“Cells age faster with a sedentary lifestyle,” said the University of California San Diego’s School of Medicine. “Chronological age doesn’t always match biological age.”
Since a more active body means a more active brain, sedentary seniors risk lower cognitive function, too.
Now the American Cancer Society lists among the dangers of too much sitting: cancer; heart disease; stroke; lung disease; Parkinson’s; Alzheimer’s and more. Sitting too much can hurt you even if you exercise regularly, the organization says.
Break up an hour of sitting with just two minutes of standing or light activity to improve cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure, the study says.
This is particularly important to older people, who spend more time sitting than they might have earlier in life.
So turn off the TV and the computer, stand and stretch, move around, go for a walk, or head to the gym.
At least do something like these recommendations from the cancer society:
- Stand and fold laundry while watching TV
- Exercise or stretch while watching
- Stand up and walk around during commercials
- Walk up the escalator or stairs instead of using the elevator
Step 1 is simple: Get up!
Pineapple Avocado Salad
Is it just too hot to spend much time near the oven? Try this refreshing, simple Cuban salad that captures the flavor of the tropics without heating up your kitchen. It’s nice and light alongside chicken or pork, with rice and beans.
- ¼ cup thinly sliced red onion, separated into rings
- Ice water
- 2 firm ripe avocados
- 1 medium fresh pineapple
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper to taste (optional)
- Soak onion in a small bowl of ice water for 15 minutes to mellow the bite.
- Meanwhile, halve avocados and cut each half into slices. Peel pineapple, halve lengthwise into quarters, remove the core and cut each quarter crosswise into slices.
- Whisk oil and lime juice in a small bowl. Drain the onion and pat dry. Arrange half the avocado, pineapple and onion on a serving plate, sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and drizzle with half the dressing; repeat the layers. Garnish with pepper, if desired.
Makes 8 servings
Takes 20 minutes to prepare
- Serving size: 1 cup
- Per serving: 186 calories; 13 g fat (2 g sat); 5 g fiber; 20 g carbohydrates; 2 g protein; 62 mcg folate; 0 mg cholesterol; 12 g sugars; 0 g added sugars; 140 IU vitamin A; 60 mg vitamin C; 22 mg calcium; 1 mg iron; 75 mg sodium; 374 mg potassium
- Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin C (100% daily value)
- Carbohydrate Servings: 1½
- Exchanges: 1 fruit, 2½ fat