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Stay Fit for a Longer & Better Retirement

spartan race barbed wire

When we contemplate retirement, we tend to hone in on the dollars required, how long it might take to get those dollars, and how to best keep those dollars in our own accounts and out of the hands of advisors and tax collectors.

Money is obviously vital to any retirement plan, particularly an early retirement plan. Money isn’t all that matters, though. I’ve talked before about other things that matter, like having Enough in terms of meaningful friendships, time, love, and happiness. Another important consideration is your health.

Without good health, retirement might not be nearly as great as you expect it should be, which is why it is so important to incorporate wellness and fitness into your retirement plan. Life is a whole lot easier when you can take the steps to your rented Italian villa without stopping to catch your breath, rest your arthritic knees, and check your blood glucose level.


Italian Church
no elevators here


When setting your financial goals, set some fitness goals, too. Crossing the financial independence finish line huffing and puffing and fifty pounds overweight is a bad look. Don’t neglect the body that you’re going to use in retirement. You only get the one.

Fortunately, the one you’ve got can be maintained and modified. It may not be easy, but if you’ve got the discipline to build your financial muscles, you can work on your other muscles, too.

I’m not going to tell you how to get fit, lose weight, or eat right. If you feel you need a Fitbit or an Apple watch, knock yourself out.  Just do something. There are a million and one websites and other resources that can do a much better and more complete job than I can.

I just want to bring some of the benefits of staying fit to the forefront. Workouts tend to be the first thing to go when life gets busy for me. Then I remind myself why I choose to work out in the first place, and I find my way back into a routine.



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How can fitness improve your retirement?


Exercise lowers stress. Establishing a regular workout routine during your working years can help stave off burnout and set you up to remain fit well into your retirement years.

Healthier people tend to live longer (Thank you, Dr. Obvious). Behind this well-known fact lies a more subtle truth. Doing your best to stay healthy is a great way to add high-quality years to your retirement. Saving money and retiring early is just one way of buying extra years of life to enjoy without the stresses of paid employment. Retiring early and healthy (say at 55 with the health of an average 45-year old) is akin to retiring 10 years earlier.

According to the U.S. Government’s actuarial table, a 55-year old man can expect to live, on average, another 25.4 years. The average 55-year old woman gets another 27.8 years.

These are averages. I’ve taken care of hundreds of 55-year olds. Some are a picture of health; some are a picture of near-death. In some cases, bad health is due to bad luck. More often than not though, the conditions that plague the unhealthy 55-year old are at least somewhat preventable: obesity, smoking, untreated sleep apnea and hypertension, etc…

Do your best to be the healthy 55-year old and you could be looking at thirty or more years of good living in your future. The unhealthy 55-year old may have no more than five or ten.  That could be a difference of twenty-plus good years.

Do you need additional incentives to stay fit? Really?

How about keeping up with the grandkids? My boys were born when I was 32 and 34 years old. If those two wait as long as I did, I’ll be in my mid-sixties when I become a Grandpa. It’s yeoman’s work chasing these boys around now. If I want to fully enjoy their kids someday, my only hope is to find a fitness routine that I can stick with for another 30 years.


What sort of workout routine do I have now?


As life gets busy, I tend to go in and out of workout routines, but I hope to establish a more consistent schedule with my part-time and eventually no-time work schedule.

A recent workout consisted of a set of pull-ups, a set of dips, a set of pushups, a treadmill 5k, and cooling down with some sit-ups and stretching. I’m happy with the results, sporting a BMI of 22.4 (calculate yours here), BP around 110 / 70, and a resting heart rate in the low 60’s. Yes, I’m bragging. Not even humble bragging.


spartan race barbed wire
I like to include mud and barbed wire in my daily routine 😉


I’m looking forward to running outside more, biking, and perhaps kayaking as the weather improves this spring. I’d like to add some strength training, but it will probably come at the expense of the cardio (running). In early retirement, I should have the time to do both!

I doubt you need any more convincing at this point, but there’s one more benefit to staying fit that I’d like to highlight.


Staying fit will save you money!


My employer kicks back $20 each month if I sign in at the YMCA eight times each month. We get another $20 when Mrs. PoF (who is much more consistent than I am) meets the quota. $40 a month isn’t going to make or break us, but I’ll take it.

More importantly, staying fit can save you many, many dollars in healthcare costs over a lifetime. Fewer clinic visits, fewer prescriptions, and fewer procedures means fewer dollars spent. Fitness can easily save you thousands each and every year, particularly if you carry a high deductible health plan with an HSA, as I do.

Doing your best to stay fit can add quality years to your retirement, reduce stress, improve your looks, and give you a sense of accomplishment that is hard to come by any other way.



Do you prioritize fitness? Is remaining healthy a key part of your retirement plan? Let us know below!


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28 thoughts on “Stay Fit for a Longer & Better Retirement”

  1. Pingback: Smart Career Alternatives and Retirement for Physicians - Small Business Office Manager
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  5. It is indeed true that healthier people tend to live longer. If only people valued their health and worked on it before the body starts failing we wouldn’t be dealing with some of the health issues that we are facing today. Its always exciting and encouraging reading such pieces of writing as they not only boost one’s morale but also offer tons of advice. Thanks for taking your time to share this.

  6. Staying fit should be a point of concern for everyone regardless of their age. Retired or not, it is important that one ensures that they are in great shape. It is understandable that one may not have the time, drive or energy to engage in fitness activities in their prime years but that’s no excuse as it is the little things that we do that contribute to our overall health and fitness.

  7. Being healthy and fit is more than just a priority for my husband and I. It’s a way of life. It’s become such an integral part of our routine that if we don’t exercise 5x per week, we just don’t feel good. Exercise helps us clear our minds from the work stress, it’s our time to think of nothing else but how much weight we’re gonna be lifting. We’ve been doing Crossfit and Olympic Weightlifting for over 5 years now and we love it! We try to visit a Crossfit gym, if it’s available, anytime we travel abroad. It’s a great way not only to get our workouts done but also to meet some locals.

  8. Thanks for the reminder. The body is a machine–you’ve got to use it or you’ll lose it. Your health is your foundation for everything else. Sitting around all day staring at computer monitors as a radiologist is not what my body was designed for. Once I committed to 25 minutes a day of vigorous exercise (i.e. HIIT), life got much better. Back pain went away, attitude improved, body fat went from 18% to 13%, blood chemistry improved significantly. The best thing is that I don’t even leave my bedroom to do it. No shoes, no equipment (except the TV), no excuses.

  9. It is my thinking that we should start living a better lifestyle way before we retire. This will improve the quality of our retirement package as we will not have to learn something new when we are too old.

  10. Health is everything. Tough to appreciate sometimes. Nothing like a good round of pain or sickness to bring this into focus. Ironically, sometimes it is our job that prevents us from having good health. I know that the more I work, the poorer the health decisions I make: I get less sleep, I don’t eat as well, my exercise and meditation practices suffer, I’m more stressed, etc.

  11. Fitness can be fun – A really good way of staying fit as you grow older is table tennis. You are using your brain to analyse and stratagize, your core and joints to improve strength and flexibility and movement for an aerobic exercise. All whilst having fun and meeting people.

  12. I agree staying healthy is a personal decision unless you lost out on genetics. Patients ask me all the time how I stay thin. My BMI is around 19. I watch what I eat every day I tell them. I also use the free program on my Iphone to count my steps. I make sure I get 10K per day. I am 59 and this seems to work for me. I have used a trainer and belonged to a gym in the past but I got tired of appointments.

    • Sounds like you’re doing fantastic! Maintaining your health requires making good decisions, staying consistent and committed to your goals. Much like sound personal finance.

  13. This is my biggest (literally) issue. I’m morbidly obese yet hoping to become FIRE. I keep making excuses that when I’m able to RE I’ll have the time to get into shape. The sad thing is that after saving enough to be FI I could be dead soon after (if not before) due to my lifestyle 🙁

    That would be my luck, save $2million, retire, then die of a heart attack the very next day.

    The surprising issue is that I have had relatively good health (with the exception of the extra 200+ pounds) for many years, while seeing others around me develop health challenges – no hbp, diabetes, decent cholesterol, triglycerides, and less than 17% blockage in coronary arteries. So I had felt invincible, but recently I have noticed joint pain, bp is in the “high normal” range – might need meds soon.

    I’m afraid it’s going to all catch up with me and it will be too little too late :/

    • Biggest issue, pun intended. 🙂 Recognizing the issue and having the will to do something about it is an important step towards making some meaningful changes. I wish you luck!


  14. I was heavy as a third year med student in 1988, 30+ pounds heavier than I am today on a 5’7″ frame. I started running for weight loss and have never stopped. Running has become a part of my life in ways that I would have never imagined at the time. It has helped me make friends, build relationships, compete, maintain an excellent physique and state of conditioning (BMI of 20, resting HR of 49), and see the world. I have traveled for races and run in nearly every city, state, park, and country (France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Japan, Mexico, Canada, and Peru come to mind) that I have visited since 1988.

    Running is a great way to get in shape and stay in shape. More generally, the discipline that you draw from to save money rather than by a new (shirt, car, watch, gadget, necklace, or whatever) is the same discipline that will get you up and out on that cold winter morning. I advise running outside because there are health benefits to being outside that go beyond the benefit of exercise. And once you are accustomed to running outside, you can do it anywhere. Just last month I had a fantastic running tour (with a guide) of Rome.

    The importance of staying in good physical condition is of paramount importance for a physician, and I loathe to see portly colleagues around the hospital or campus. It might be my personal prejudice, but I seek help or treatment by an out-of-shape doc. If the doc cannot himself keep himself in good condition, how is he or she going to help me?

    • I was skinny as a seventh grader in 1988, weighing 72 pounds when the lowest weight class in wrestling was 98. 🙂

      I like your analogy between running and investing. Both require making plans, committing to them, and having the discipline to stick with it. I run a fair amount now, but nearly as much as you, I’ll admit.

      Early in our marriage, Mrs. PoF wanted me to do races with her, and I had never been much of a runner. So I walked a 5k while she ran, then 10k, then won a walking half-marathon, and walked a full marathon (jogging for half of the last 3 miles to finish in under 5 hours). Only after that did I decide I might as well join the masses and start running. I’d like to run a marathon at some point; I struggle to maintain a good training schedule with young boys, the work schedule, and general making of excuses.

  15. Definitely something to think about when going through life. ‘YOLO’ may be great, but you can live a great life or a terrible life at 50/60/70 etc, it just depends how you’ve taken care of your body leading up to that point.

    We (Jasmin and I from DividendsDownUnder) are going to be starting our IVF cycles really soon, so we’ve really stepped up trying to eat healthy (eg adding lots of seeds, nuts and berries to our breakfast, cutting out bacon completely from our diet ( 🙁 ) ).

    As a random note, I’m aiming to live to 100 years old, so I have to live healthily to get there.


    • So you come from a land down under? Sorry, couldn’t resist. A visit to your side of the world is definitely on my short list of dream vacations when I retire early.

      Best of luck with the in vitro. Stay healthy so you can live to see your great, great, great grandkids when you’re a centenarian!

  16. Fitness and health are definitely important. You need to be healthy to be able to enjoy life. Reaching FI but not healthy enough to enjoy the freedom? That’d be very sad. I’m definitely trying to be active and stay healthy but going to the gym, walk regularly, and watch out what I eat. That’s great you get kickback from your employer.

    • I agree, Tawcan. It sounds like you’re doing all the right things. Healthy eating is important too. I married a dietitian, and we eat reasonably well, thanks to her!

      The employer kickback (technically, it’s the employer-provided health insurance that provides the incentive) provides a little extra motivation. When I went to our YMCA this afternoon at 12:30, I saw one of our family practitioners in the weight room, an OB/Gyn and Orthopedic surgeon playing on opposing basketball teams, a general surgeon in the cardio room, and one of our nurse anesthetists was arriving as I left. This is out of maybe 30 people that were there at the time. A good portion of our medical staff clearly values fitness, and has a schedule that allows them time to work out.

      I actually showed up at the Y at 0630 after a 24 hour shift that included an 0100 epidural and 0400 C section. I didn’t realize that my gym bag was devoid of any workout clothes until I was in the locker room. I went home, slept 4 hours, and got a proper workout in this afternoon. I’ll have to write about sleep deprivation in an upcoming post!

  17. It was the desire to be healthy and active for the future generation that led me to my lifestyle changes. Dropped 50 lbs and feel so much better. I have run 2-marathons, 6 various Spartan runs, 1/2 Marathon, 15k and a 5k. I love running. I added strength training especially on the legs to combat common problems that runners face.

    I noticed the photos of the spartan run on the post. Have you done one? They are tough, but a lot of fun. Hoping to complete the Ultra Beast this year (26+ miles, 70+ obstacles). Aroo!!!

    BTW, I just started by walking. Then walking/jogging. Then jogging/walking. Then lots of jogging with bursts of running. Just start. Set aside time everyday and just do it.

    cd :O)

    • Way to go, Chris! You may have to drop the JumboCD moniker 😉 I can’t say I love running, but I feel better when I do.

      To answer your question, yes that’s me in the photo doing a Spartan Sprint. I’ve done a Super Spartan, and will do the Tough Mudder this summer, which should be pretty easy compared to the Spartan races, from what I’m told (except for the electric shock part – is that really necessary?). I do these with a group of high school buddies; we did an Urbanathlon in Chicago once, too. It’s a good excuse to get together after 20+ years and I’m forced to train, which is great. I can’t imagine doing a Spartan Beast. You da man!

  18. Great post. I have found fitnessblender.com budget and frugal lifestyle friendly. They have over 500 free exercises on YouTube. No need for gym or equipment plus they don’t try to sell you anything.

    • Sounds great, thanks for sharing! There are many ways to workout with little or no expense. If you do spend a little money, it’s generally a great investment in yourself.

  19. Way back in the 70s, a PF writer named Vanita Van Caspel said the most important 3 things in life is money, health and time. Usually we have 2 of the 3. In youth time and health, no money. Middle age money and health, no time. Old age money and time, no health. The trick is to get all 3 at the same time. Unfortunately as I see people around me get older, they don’t have any of the 3,

    • Great insight, thanks for sharing. I think the FIRE movement is about having them all, but health doesn’t seem to get as much attention as the other 2.


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