Stay Active in Retirement With These Fitness Tips

June 2023
photo of a woman seated in the lotus position on a yoga mat with text that reads stay active in retirement

Making exercise a part of your daily routine can improve your lifestyle in more ways than one. With a wide variety of fitness activities available, you can soon start reaping both physical and mental benefits – regardless of your skill level.

Biking, chair yoga and pickleball are favorites of Sue Rayburn, a retired Louisa County school librarian, who says working out gives her a feeling of satisfaction at the end of a long day. She also credits exercise with helping her sleep better and make healthier decisions about what she eats.

“When I don’t want to go [exercise], I remind myself that I’m going to feel better after I go,” Rayburn says. “I think if you want to be walking when you’re 80, you have to do something.”

Participating in group exercise is another motivator to stay active. “That keeps you connected,” she says. “Whether it’s pickleball or bicycling with friends or meeting people at the YMCA.”

Read on for more fitness tips to help you stay active, happy and healthy during retirement.

Move Early and Often

Fitting exercise into your morning routine can help build healthy habits all day long. Make it a goal to knock out some household chores or go for a walk with your dog or a buddy shortly after you wake up.

Try bite-sized workouts, also known as “movement snacks.” These might include walking around the living room during commercial breaks, parking farther from the store entrance or using the stairs instead of the elevator if possible. As always, talk with your doctor before starting any exercise program.

Do All Four Types of Exercise

You may think doing just one type of exercise or activity is enough. However, according to the National Institutes of Health, it’s important to integrate four types of exercise: endurance, strength, balance and flexibility. Each one has its benefits. Plus, having some variety in your workouts can reduce boredom and fatigue.

Endurance. Also known as aerobic activities, endurance workouts help increase your breathing and heart rates. Lung and heart stamina will make it easier to perform day-to-day tasks and keep up with your grandchildren. Here are some endurance activities to try:

  • Speed walking or jogging.
  • Swimming.
  • Yard work, such as mowing or raking.
  • Climbing stairs or hills.

Strength. Building muscular strength will help you stay independent and make it easier to perform daily activities, such as getting out of a chair, carrying groceries or climbing stairs. Consider these exercises:

  • Lifting weights.
  • Working your core.
  • Using a resistance band.

If you add weightlifting to your workout routine, start with light weights, then gradually add more. The same applies for resistance bands, stretchy elastic bands that come in different strengths. Start with low resistance and work your way up – or start without a band, then move up to the light band once you feel stronger.

Balance. Improving your balance may help prevent falling, especially when you focus on strengthening your legs and hips. Balance exercises include:

  • Standing on one foot while brushing your teeth.
  • Walking heel to toe in a straight line (or as straight as you can manage).
  • Standing from a seated position without using your hands.
  • Be sure to have a sturdy chair or someone to hold on to if you feel unsteady.

Flexibility. Increasing your range of motion makes it easier to do things such as reaching down to tie your shoes or looking over your shoulder when backing out of the driveway. Try simple stretches of your back, inner thigh, ankle and legs to improve your flexibility. Floor or chair yoga may become your new favorite activity.

Enjoy the Benefits of an Active Lifestyle

You can gain a lot both physically and emotionally by staying active. Take it from retired VRS Human Resource director and avid cyclist Ken Robertson.

“Stay active physically to stay healthy physically, mentally and spiritually,” Robertson says. “Resilience and determination at any age works!”

Physical benefits of staying active include having more energy, better sleep, improved cognitive function and lower risk of falls or injuries if you do fall. Physical activity also can help reduce feelings of stress and sadness, while empowering you to feel more in control of your life.

“Enjoy what each day brings,” Robertson says. “Even if you’re not sure what it will be.”