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As well as putting the right things into your body, it is important that you also get some regular exercise. Many people who reach retirement don’t really know how to address this. Some suddenly become regular attendees of the gym for the first time in their life, others take up weights and others do nothing. So what is the best approach?
The first principle to consider is aerobic versus anaerobic exercise. If you want to burn fat and be in good shape, ensure you get aerobic exercise. By this I mean exercising in an energetic way, but not so much so that you couldn’t still hold a conversation. For some people, that will be a jog, a bike ride or a run, but for others that might be a fast walk. If you are going at a speed where you can just still hold a conversation, then that is the optimum aerobic exercise for getting you and keeping you in the perfect shape. Ideally you want to ensure that you are getting 30 minutes or more of aerobic exercise at least four times a week.
This can then be combined with anaerobic exercise, where there will be more puffing and panting and holding a conversation would be tricky, because it involves more busts of power. These activities might be sports like squash or tennis, doing weights or more intense gym workouts. Do these in addition to, not instead of the aerobic exercises, because with anaerobic exercise you are trying to create muscle, which is less important than burning fat if you want to remain fit and healthy into your retirement.
The key to this is finding a blend that works for you. For example, I do a blend of squash, golf and cycling. With squash, I get the bursts of power that come with anaerobic exercise, and no time to think of anything else but the next point. With golf, I get the chance to connect with someone else, improve my game and have good aerobic exercise. With cycling, I get to learn from my audiobooks whilst getting aerobic exercise, mixed with the odd burst of anaerobic exercise up the steep hills of Rutland! I combine this with some yoga each morning to build in some calm stretching. This is my choice of balance, and I love it.
This won’t be right for everyone of course, but it is about finding a balance of exercise that works for you. It’s too easy to say, ‘I like golf, so I’m sticking with that only’—this is likely to leave you feeling less rewarded and less well balanced, not to mention less fit than you could be if you added a complementary activity. If golf is your thing, adding something like cycling, a class like body combat or yoga could make a big improvement in your overall health. Swimming also works well in combination with other exercises like golf. Sadly the pool in my local sport centre does not open early enough for me; otherwise, I would go for a swim some mornings instead of yoga. With the recent invention of waterproof covers for iPods, I could even listen to my books while swimming. So whatever it is you decide, try to incorporate some learning, and a combination of aerobic and anaerobic exercise, because you will feel so much better for it. You can also consider learning a martial art to improve fitness and wellbeing, as well as teach you something new. When I lived in London I tried a number of martial arts and settled on Wu Shu Kwan.
Chinese Boxing, commonly known in the west as practical Kung Fu, is the oldest name used by the Westerners to describe the systematic and effective Chinese art of self-defence when they first encountered it and were fascinated by what they saw. Of course, Chinese Kickboxing, rather than Chinese Boxing, would have been the more appropriate description, if the word kickboxing had existed then. The aim of Chinese Boxing is to progressively train your body as well as your mind to achieve positive health and to acquire effective skill to defend yourself successfully. Chinese Boxing is the art of total self-defence. To me it came across as a blend of more traditional Thai Kickboxing (Muay Thai), which is aggressive in teaching and technique, and Wing Chun, which is a much more passive Kung Fu.
Sadly, Wu Shu Kwan is yet to make it to Rutland, but if it ever does, I would be there like a shot. In retirement, learning something like Wing Chun, Wu Shu Kwan or Tai Chi can improve your fitness and wellbeing, whilst allowing you to learn something interesting too.
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