Getting your body ready for retirement may sound like a strange proposition, but it’s an important part of the Your Countdown to Retirement process. Remember the “Freshman 15” many of us put on in our first year of college or the weight that stubbornly remained after childbirth? It’s just as easy to gain weight and as hard to take it off when you stop working.
Good health is an important factor in retirement enjoyment and balance, both mental and physical, is essential. “Full body balance and stability are important no matter what your age, whether you’re a senior or not” says Steph Williams, wellness director at the Rockland Harbor YMCA. “Often we think about stabilizing parts like knees, calves, ankles, or back,” she said, “but the truth is you need to stabilize your core, your whole body.”
She encourages slowing down, focusing, and taking time to connect with your body. “Stability and balance require you to have a focal point and pay attention or you will lose your balance. I see it all the time when I’m training. If your eyes are wandering everywhere as your center of gravity changes while you exercise, you’re going to fall.”
Like most things in life, it takes practice to develop a good sense of balance. Williams suggests scheduling time to work on balance and functional issues like getting up from a kneeling position on the floor. “Getting out of a chair, getting up off the floor, kneeling and standing are important parts of an exercise program to stay healthy as you age,” she said. “But you’re not going to get stronger if you don’t practice it and do it.”
Classes, partners, or workout buddies improve your chances of success. “Choose a partner who has exercise goals that are similar to your own,” she suggests. “But remember, everyone needs their own exercise goals.”
When it comes to workout length, her recommendations may surprise you. “Nobody needs a whole hour. It depends on the efficiency of your program,” she said. “You can definitely get an efficient workout in 30 to 45 minutes as long as you’re coming in with a plan.”
“As you age, it’s more important to think about everyday movement than it is to get on a machine and do leg curls,” says Williams. “Focus on exercising your body in ways that you’re going to use it every day and you don’t even realize it like reaching up for something in the cupboard, squatting down and putting away groceries, or going up and down the stairs. There are so many exercises you can do that mimic everyday life.”
Williams wholeheartedly believes there’s a form of exercise for everybody. “I’d rather see an 80-year-old working out on a machine than not working out. All exercise is good exercise.”
When planning my husband’s retirement, exercise became a way for us to relieve stress and restore balance in our lives. Like many baby boomers, we thought creating a retirement plan would be easy. But jointly contemplating how to spend the rest of your lives is a weighty (no pun intended) process and is often filled with conflicting wants, needs, and desires.
During the year we spent coming up with our plan, nothing got me over an argument with my husband faster than a vigorous walk or workout at the gym. Exercise gave me a sense of control when my life seemed out of control. Venting my negative emotions through exercise was a healthy choice that allowed me to revisit a conversation or situation after my workout with a more balanced perspective.