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Resolved: Get Healthy

Richard Connor, 2:34 am ET

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.

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George Counihan
George Counihan
9 days ago

A healthy man has a thousand wishes … a sick man only one

evan rayers
evan rayers
9 days ago

Great observation George, it says it all.

I’m lucky, I’ve participated in a good workouts hormonal & other stressors releases since the early 70s.

And upon further educational review(Dr.M.Holick-BOS) D#3 has been a big help also.
Good Luck & Best wishes..

Michael1
Michael1
9 days ago

One of the most potentially impactful resolutions out there.

Jim Wasserman
Jim Wasserman
10 days ago

nice reminder. Without health, one can’t really enjoy all the other great things in life. I’ll keep this short as you have inspired me to go out for a hike!

DrLefty
DrLefty
10 days ago

I started working diligently on fitness and diet early in the pandemic, which was the year I turned 60. Stuck at home, I had no time-related excuses not to work out or eat properly. We were not traveling or socializing or going out for happy hour or eating in restaurants. It was an opportunity to get my house in order.

I’m happy to report that an old dog can learn new tricks, and I’m now an avid fitness buff, exercising at least an hour a day and some days closer to two. (I’m still working, so there are time constraints.) I cook our meals from healthy cookbooks and websites. I’m down 50 lbs and trying to lose the last 15 or so to be at an ideal weight in the middle of the BMI range for my height.

I will say that the toughest battle has been mental. Like you, I had tried and ultimately failed to get it together several times previously and had lost confidence in my ability to ever succeed at this. Also, the slow and steady route, while ultimately the most effective, can also get you burned out after awhile. I took a break from losing for about four months last year and was able to maintain my current weight, jumping back into weight loss efforts in the fall.

I’m an intelligent person, and I knew what to do to lose weight. I was surprised at how challenging it’s been mentally. But I’m getting there, and my motivation is the same as yours—a healthy, energetic, active retirement.

Rick Connor
Rick Connor
9 days ago
Reply to  DrLefty

Congratulations – you results are inspiring.

Andrew Forsythe
Andrew Forsythe
11 days ago

Rick, thanks for a great article. Hope you achieve the health and fitness levels you desire.

Everyone has a different way of accomplishing that. My wife, the extrovert, enjoys the group motivation and socializing aspects of fitness classes at a gym. I, as the family introvert, am much happier at home, on our treadmill viewing Netflix or pumping my Walmart dumbells while watching the PBS Newshour. (Coincidentally, I likewise retired on 3/31/17.)

Jack Hannam
Jack Hannam
11 days ago

This is a useful reminder to me that I should devote a similar amount of effort in improving and maintaining my fitness level as I do in managing my finances during my fourth year of retirement. Thanks Rick!

Mark Schwartz
Mark Schwartz
11 days ago

Rick, it’s always difficult to self-acess when it comes to one’s health, we all think we are 10 foot tall and bullet proof but Superman is the only one that can claim that status. As we reach the Golden years, health and fitness is definitely one of the things that we all need to make an effort to pay attention to. Good article…

An
An
11 days ago
Reply to  Mark Schwartz

We all have our own kryptonite.

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