It’s time to rewrite the old narrative of retirement that implies settling into an ease of life as you age. Retirees should resist the proverbial lure of the rocking chair and continue to be active, productive and engaged with others and their communities. In fact, as we age it becomes more important to be physically active and engaged with others, not less, to prevent declining physical and mental health.

It’s vital that retirees need to regularly exercise to compensate for bodily changes, such as musculoskeletal degeneration. Improving strength and coordination can help older adults maintain their fitness and limit their risk of falling, a leading cause of disability and death of older adults.

Here’s some quick tests you can do at home to assess your strength, coordination and your risk for falling.

The Sitting-rising Test From Floor (assesses strength and mobility)

The Sitting-rising Test From Chair (assesses lower body strength and endurance)

The Push-up Test (assesses upper body strength)

Single-leg Balance Test (assesses static posture and balance control, as well as your risk for falling)

To prevent muscle and bone loss and improve our overall health, we first have overcome our sedentary ways by moving more throughout the day. Any weight-bearing, functional exercise such as squats, lunges and push-ups are beneficial and will improve your ability to get down and up off the floor. But, we also need to include brisk walking, running, dancing, or any movement that you enjoy doing regularly while on your feet (see accompanying article). Weightlifting is particularly helpful in preventing musculoskeletal decline, however, there’s two common mistakes that people make when starting a strength training program. The first is not being cognizant of proper form which can lead to injury. The second is not using enough weight that will stimulate your muscles to grow and adapt. Whether you’re using hand-weights or your own body-weight know that the last few reps of every set are supposed to feel tough. If you’re able perform all your reps and sets with proper form and without feeling challenged, it’s time to increase your resistance or reps.

Choose To Move!

The following steps requires small changes in your behaviors to help you move more throughout your day and lifespan!

  1. Move often: Make it enjoyable, necessary and with plenty of variety. To make movement enjoyable, play a game with others that encourages movement or engage in a recreational activity with a friend. To make it necessary find a friend, or group fitness class to hold you accountable. To build in variety, take every opportunity to move, in as many ways as possible, at whatever speed you like, for any amount of time. Do what makes you feel good; stop doing what makes you feel bad. Find a sport, recreational activity or hobby that you enjoy, preferably with like-minded others and make it a weekly routine.
  2. Sometimes hard: Fit in periods of Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity (MVPA) throughout your week. That could mean an hour of gardening or household chores, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or picking the pace up momentarily of your walk. MVPA requires effort and noticeably increases your heart rate and works your lungs and your brains to keep you sharp into retirement. Aerobic activity is important but so is a good strength-training program that challenges your capacity to lift and carry heavy things. The bottom line is, in order to make progress with your health, we have to practice leaving our comfort zone. For more on this topic please read
  3. Every bit counts: Requires awareness of prolonged, slumped in your comfy chair, sitting. To counteract sitting still; fidget more, get up from your chair more often, take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk or bike to work or run to run errands, or sit on the floor to read or watch tv. Finally, prioritizing your spine and being more in-tuned with your breathing throughout the day can improve your physical and mental well-being. Whether you’re sitting, standing or walking, practice bringing awareness to your posture and breath will lead to less pain, prevent injury, and more positive outlook on life.