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Senior Correspondent

Are You Fit Enough for Retirement?

While I am on vacation in northern Arizona deciding if an RV lifestyle is right for Betty and me, Stan Cohen from ChiForLiving has offered this guest post on physical fitness and its role in living a satisfying retirement. After the post of a week or so ago about good health and enough water intake, I think Stan's article make a nice addition.

The issue of staying fit enough to enjoy retirement is an important one. Not all of us can ride a bike 20 miles, hike up and down a mountain, or even swim enough laps to get our heart rate up. But, we can walk a few blocks, or do simple stretching exercises. Maybe we can lift an old milk jug that is half filled with water a few times to keep arm muscles active. There are web sites specializing in simple exercises that only need a chair. It doesn't really matter what you do — just do something. Here are Stan's thoughts:

Aging and retirement go hand in hand. Most of us prepare heavily in the financial planning end of making sure we are financially fit to carry out our plans.

Often overlooked is the physical side of the equation which begs the question: “are you physically fit enough for retirement?” You may have the funds to travel, spend time playing golf or working in your garden, hiking or whatever your picture of a satisfying retirement is, but are you fit enough to carry out those plans for the long term?

Have you made plans to keep yourself fit as you continue to age, not only to live out your plans, but for the unexpected as well? Keep in mind that many in retirement end up as the caregiver for their spouse and in many cases end up caring for their parents with their spouse helping out.

In the last few years working with the senior population I have run across a huge contingent of retirees who are their parents' caregivers. There is also a tremendous number who see it coming as our boomer population ages and we start taking care of our parents who, by the way, are living longer and expect help from us.

A few of the major issues of care giving I hear about are burnout, anger, frustration, exhaustion, boredom, of course love and loneliness. Most have aches and pains from being constantly on their feet running here and there, lifting, bending, carrying, cleaning and all the other movements associated with the daily grind of assisting an older person. The older and more fragile, the more work involved. My own mother-in-law for example was dead weight and much heavier for her size then she should have been.

For a current caregiver I would ask you to step back and assess how you approach this. My wife and I tag-teamed her mother’s caregiving quite often. Luckily I was here and able to help with some of the heavy lifting and spot checks. We shared cooking duties and house chores at both homes. I was able to spell my wife for enough time for her to get in some treadmill work to burn off the stress to some degree.

Do you have someone you can ask for help? Remember, although you choose to do this, you should not have to take the full brunt. If at all possible get your family to help and allow you some personal time. Any muscle needs recovery from overuse and most of yours will be beyond overuse.

Now, let me ask: What do you do to keep yourself in shape for what lies ahead in your retirement years?

  • Do you stretch at night and in the morning to loosen up?
  • Do you do any form of exercise to burn off the stress that can wreck havoc with your body?

  • Do you eat right to keep your system functioning properly
  • Do you remember to drink enough fluids so you don't dehydrate (or do you run on coffee alone to keep going)?

If you already exercise and keep yourself in shape, hats off to you and keep going! If you are overweight and tire easily or have fears of the potential downsides I mentioned, yet still want to care for mom or simply have the satisfying retirement lifestyle you wished for, then get busy training for it. Walk more, climb some stairs, do more chores and get busy practicing what you say you "want to do." You very well may want to consult your physician and see if you should take any special precautions or do some specific exercises before beginning a program.

In any case, I would recommend some Tai Chi, Qigong or Yoga and an occasional massage to help with your overall well being while enjoying your aging and satisfying retirement lifestyle.

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