LIVING A HEALTHY lifestyle is one of the most important aspects of a happy retirement. It is, alas, also one of the most difficult goals for many of us to achieve. A 2005 Boston College Center for Retirement Research study concluded that health was the second most important factor in determining the happiness of retirees—and those with poor health “experience dramatically lower levels of well-being.”
I stopped working fulltime on March 31, 2017. My health, wellness and fitness have since deteriorated. That first year, my wife gave me a Fitbit. As my wife suspected, it appealed to my affinity for numbers and statistics, as well as my competitive nature. By fall, I was regularly hitting my daily 10,000-step goal. But in early December, I felt a sharp pain in my left foot as I was walking across some rough terrain. I saw a podiatrist. He informed me that I have a “horribly arthritic joint” where my left big toe connects to the foot. We tried a variety of pads, and one eventually took the pain away.
In 2018 and 2019, the ravages of years of playing football and basketball in my youth, coupled with 30 years of being overweight, caught up with my right knee. I tried physical therapy and painkillers, but the damage was too severe. The pain seriously detracted from a long-awaited trip to Italy in May 2019. I missed many of the tours, especially in Rome. Steroids during the first week helped, and I enjoyed the second week much more.
I had a right total knee replacement in September 2019. The surgery went well and I made a serious commitment to rehabbing the knee. Luckily, I had a great surgeon, a great physical therapist and an experienced nurse for a wife. Physical therapy went well. I was up and walking quickly, and improved throughout the fall.
In January 2020, my wife gave me the gift of 10 sessions with a trainer at our local community fitness center. I dove into the sessions, intentionally scheduling them for 6:30 a.m. so I’d start the day well. I got on well with the trainer and enthusiastically made it through nine of the 10 sessions. I really enjoyed it and made sure I did extra workouts each week. As I was getting ready for the 10th session, COVID-19 hit and the gym closed. I never took that last session.
Now that we’re living at the beach, I try to ride my bike several times a week. We joined our local community center, which has an excellent gym and pool. I’ve started going to the gym in the past few weeks. I’m hoping Omicron won’t limit my access.
As you might have gathered, my history of trying to get fit goes like this: Start well, lose some weight, feel better—and then suffer some kind of setback. Throughout my adult life, I’ve always thought I still had time left to take care of my health. But some current health issues have convinced me that I can’t delay anymore. The good news: Most of my ailments are weight-related and there’s a good chance I can reverse much or all of my issues with weight loss, healthy eating and improved fitness.
A National Institute of Health study found that adults who maintained moderate or high physical activity levels had significantly lower health care costs after age 65. The earlier you start exercising, the larger the savings.
I worked hard and diligently to provide us with a financially solid retirement. We have the money to enjoy ourselves, take care of ourselves and, we hope, leave a legacy. But I’ve learned that an enjoyable retirement also requires good health. I’ll be 65 in September 2022. That’s the traditional retirement age. My resolution is to be in good enough condition by then to enjoy the rest of my retirement.