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A woman doing yoga in her home.

You’ve worked hard, invested a lot of time in your career, and saved up for your golden years. Retirement is finally here on your terms. Now, you are free to do the things you put off while working. It seems you have complete autonomy over your body, health, and time every day of the week.

This scenario may portray your hopes for the rest of your life span. But have you thought about your health span?

Life span is how long you live. Health span is how long you can live independently with a good quality of life because you still have physical and cognitive fitness.

Just as retirement requires banking money to build your financial nest egg, enjoying an extended health span also requires an investment in your physical fitness so you can enjoy a healthy quality life span. And the sooner you start investing in either, the greater your returns.

With more free time in retirement, your 62-year-old or older self can invest time and energy toward your fitness. By doing so, you’ll realize a great return on your investment by banking strength and stamina. Plus, you can continue to use that strength and stamina and draw from your "account" for the next 30 years. And unlike your retirement nest egg, the physical strength that you bank now gets maintained when you use it, rather than depleting your account.

So don’t listen to advice to save your energy or strength. Using your strength does not empty your account balance. It helps you build and maintain it so you can continue to draw from it throughout your life span. If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it is a more accurate way to think about it.

There comes a time when it’s too late to start investing money to make the financial returns you need to fund your life span. But no matter your age, you can get a valuable return on your investment when you focus on your health and fitness.

What Does Building Your Physical Return on Investment Look Like?

It’s important to be mindful of these key components:

1. Investment Vehicles

The fitness investment vehicle can be any fun physical activity. It can be a hobby, an adventure, a social gathering, or exercise. To diversify your investments, choose activities that address all aspects of physical fitness, including:

  • Muscle strength (resistance exercises using weights, elastic bands, or your body weight; this also includes Pilates).
  • Power (moving your body weight or doing resistance exercises with speed). Examples include paced sitting to standing exercises or climbing stairs briskly.
  • Cardiovascular endurance (cardio exercise like long walks, biking, or swimming).
  • Flexibility (active and static stretching and activities like gardening and Yoga).
  • Balance (activities that challenge your balance). Examples include standing on one leg, standing on an unstable surface or mat, or Tai Chi.

2. Investment Amount

Invest in yourself. Doing 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week is enough to realize gains for your body and brain. That’s just 30 minutes per day, five days a week. Any activity that elevates your heart rate but you can still hold a conversation is considered moderate-intensity. Brisk walking is a great example.

Don’t have 150 minutes to invest each week? You can accomplish the same or better health benefits in half the time with higher-intensity physical activity. Just 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise (during which it’s hard to hold a conversation) can provide an equal or greater deposit into your fitness bank account. That’s just 15 minutes per day, five days a week.

Still too busy in retirement (perhaps you volunteer or care for grandchildren) and find it hard to invest in yourself? Check out the tips in this article for ways to include physical activity in your week so you can live your best life.

3. Return on Investment

Investing in these types and amounts of physical activity builds your overall fitness. Most notably, it benefits your musculoskeletal system (bones, muscles, and joints), organs, and brain function.

Doing the recommended amount of physical activity will give you a return on investment that includes improved:

  • Strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance.
  • Bone strength.
  • Brain function. Physical activity helps with decision making. It can even slow or prevent cognitive decline linked to aging or disease by releasing beneficial hormones, improving circulation, and stimulating the brain.
  • Systemic health, at the level of your organs. Regular exercise supports your pancreas, skin, lungs, liver, digestive system, and immune system by releasing natural antioxidants that help you combat or prevent some types of cancer, diabetes, or fatty liver disease.
  • Cardiovascular health. Regular physical activity improves everything related to your heart and lungs. It can improve asthma and reduce your risk for stroke, heart attack, or lung cancer.

How to Get Started Investing in Your Health Span

If you are wondering where to start or what type of exercise is right for you, you’re not alone. These are common questions that a physical therapist can address. A physical therapist can help you if you have a chronic condition that limits your movement. They also can help you if you need guidance to do more to deposit into your fitness account.

Make an appointment with a physical therapist and start making deposits toward your health and fitness today. It’s easier to invest in and maintain your physical health now so you can continue to make withdrawals later. And your 85-year-old self will thank you.

Physical therapists are movement experts who improve quality of life through hands-on care, patient education, and prescribed movement.

Just as a financial planner helps people invest money for retirement, a physical therapist can design an exercise or treatment plan for your specific needs and goals. You can contact a physical therapist directly for an evaluation. To find a physical therapist in your area, visit Find a PT.

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