Eight ways to boost your fitness in retirement
If you’ve said goodbye to full-time work and hello to retirement, it’s time to put physical fitness at the top of your priority list and start enjoying the next phase of your life. What’s your fitness regime?
People tend to give plenty of thought to ensuring their finances are in good shape at retirement but what about the health and fitness of the body carrying you through that time of life?
The statistics are a little alarming. According to the Victorian Government’s Better Health research, only about one in 10 Australians1 aged over 50 exercise enough to gain any cardiovascular benefit. Plus, there’s evidence that about half of the physical decline associated with ageing may be due to a lack of exercise, from reduced muscle mass and balance issues to joint problems, high blood pressure and disease.
The message is that, as you age, it’s more important than ever to be physically fit. For people aged 65 and over, at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a day, combining aerobic and muscle strengthening exercises, is the advice from the government’s HealthDirect site2. Your brain will thank you, too, with a recent study3 from the University of Melbourne highlighting the importance of exercise in keeping your grey matter healthy.
No matter what your fitness level, there are ways to get (and keep) moving to reap the benefits of exercise – from building a healthier, stronger body to boosting your mood and brain function.
There’s plenty of support available if you need ideas to get more active and have fun at the same time. Remember, the best exercise is the one you enjoy doing. We’ve put together a list of our top eight suggestions. Just make sure you take care and consult your doctor before embarking on any new exercise program.
1. Stairway to fitness
Got some stairs at your local park or at home? Several studies4 have revealed the benefits of including the simple act of walking up and down stairs for fitness and well-being – from boosting cardiac health and bone density to warding off diabetes. Start off with 10 minutes a day and work your way up and down to 30 minutes.
2. Walking your best friend
Having a dog when you retire can be one of the best things to do for yourself. As well as encouraging you to exercise, studies show that just having a dog around helps people relax, reduces stress, speeds up recovery after illness, and reduces blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Don’t (or can’t) have a dog? Perhaps consider walking someone else’s. Of course, if you can’t access a furry friend just walking is one of the most accessible ways to boost your fitness. Just make sure it’s at a brisk pace to get the benefits!
3. Dance your way
Dancing is a great way to keep active, offering many physical and mental benefits. There’s a style for everyone, from ballroom and line dancing to salsa and even belly dancing. Not only can you burn up the calories while you’re burning up the dance floor, it’s beneficial for the joints and balance, as well as helping keep your grey matter in shape5.
4. Mow like you mean it
There’s a workout just waiting for you in your own back yard. Mowing the lawn with gusto with any type of push mower will soon raise a sweat and counts towards the total activity you should get each week. If you’d like a more peaceful experience, opt for an electric mower over a fuel one, and for a more vigorous session (that’s also environmentally friendly) you could even go old-school with a manual reel mower.
5. Lifting weights
More and more weight training benefits for older people continue to emerge – from keeping muscles strong to improving brain function6 – and there are many ways to incorporate this strengthening activity into your life, whether at home or at your nearest gym. According to the experts, you should do specific strength exercises two or three times a week.
6. Row your boat
Getting out on the water can be exhilarating and an effective way to get your body working. Whether it’s dragon boats or rowing boats, kayaks or stand-up paddle boards, older Australians are flocking to maritime activities. The Australian Dragon Boat Federation says it has 5,750 registered adult participants, with the 50-plus age group making up more than half that. Many local paddling clubs offer ‘come and try’ sessions so you can test the waters first.
7. HIIT: Not just for the young
HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is a form of exercise that’s been getting lots of attention, with researchers uncovering big benefits for older adults particularly. Mayo Clinic researchers studied the effects of HIIT on people over the age of 65, for example, and discovered some age-related deterioration of muscle cells had actually been reversed7. A HIIT workout involves alternating between a high and low level of exercise. The best news is the experts say just a few short periods of this style of session a week will get results.
8. The water’s fine
Swimming is great for people of all ages but especially older adults. It can be as physically challenging as you want to make it and is easy on the joints. It’s also been shown to help increase balance8, thus reducing the chance of falls. Swimming works many muscle groups at once and you can even specifically target different groups of muscles by using different strokes. A dip in the pool could also include water aerobics and water resistance exercises to take advantage of water’s ability to reduce joint pain while also increasing muscle strength. It’s also good for the soul – just lie back and have a float.
Go well on your journey to getting your body moving more, increasing your fitness and hopefully having some fun at the same time, but remember that you should get your doctor’s or health care professional’s advice before starting on any new physical activity program to make sure it’s right for you and your needs.