How to Slow Aging and Save Money Through Exercise

Last Updated Aug 19, 2010 5:18 PM EDT

I've written before about the potential for saving money and increasing your life expectancy through smart choices regarding nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle. By eating smarter, exercising more, and making wise lifestyle changes, you can possibly save thousands of dollars per year on medical bills and extend your lifespan by five to seven years.

Just how can exercising help you in your retirement years?

The National Institute on Aging and the National Institutes of Health have developed an informative and simple website with information and ideas for improving the health of seniors. Their website recommends that seniors get the following four types of exercise:
  • Endurance activities, like walking, swimming, or riding a bike. These improve the health of your heart and your circulatory system.
  • Strengthening exercises, like lifting weights or resistance training. These build muscle tissue and reduce muscle loss.
  • Stretching exercises, such as yoga or the stretches you should do before exercising. These will help keep your body limber and flexible.
  • Balance exercises, including walking, tai chi, and yoga. These will help reduce the chances of a fall, which can produce serious injuries that trigger a downward spiral in older people.
MedLinePlus sponsors another informative website on exercise for seniors that contains online books for more details, and includes inspiring success stories.

Try to get 30 to 45 minutes of all of the above types of exercise, five times per week -- you'll get tremendous health benefits. If you haven't been exercising for quite awhile, start slow and build up to a comfortable level.

It's important to recognize that some types of exercise do double or triple duty. For example, a brisk walk can provide endurance, strengthening, and balance exercises. Yoga can provide strengthening, stretching, and balance exercises. One of my new favorites is ballroom dancing, which provides endurance and balance, and can also help improve your mental health -- a topic I'll write about in the near future.

In fact, any type of exercise -- but particularly walking -- can improve your mood and reduce depression, according to this article from the Mayo Clinic. Depression is a growing problem among senior citizens.

On a more delicate note, incontinence can be a frustrating and embarrassing problem in your later years. Yoga and other exercises that maintain the strength of your abdominal muscles can delay, mitigate, or even prevent this condition.

Exercise can help you save money, increase your lifespan, and improve your quality of life. If a pill could deliver on even half of these promises, it would be priceless! The best thing about exercise is that it can be cheap or even free, and the "side effects" are that you'll look and feel better now. Building the exercise habit is an important part of your retirement planning.

More on CBS MoneyWatch
How to Spend Less in Retirement
How Long Do You Have to Live?
Will Good Health Save You Money in Retirement or Not?
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    Steve Vernon helped large employers design and manage their retirement programs for more than 35 years as a consulting actuary. Now he's a research scholar for the Stanford Center on Longevity, where he helps collect, direct and disseminate research that will improve the financial security of seniors. He's also president of Rest-of-Life Communications, delivers retirement planning workshops and authored Money for Life: Turn Your IRA and 401(k) Into a Lifetime Retirement Paycheck and Recession-Proof Your Retirement Years.

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