Getting fit BEFORE retirement helps keep those years healthy

CENTER CITY (WPVI) -- Many people heading toward retirement look forward to having more time to exercise or pursue a sport they love.

Being able to play golf, or bike all you want sounds like a dream.

But experts at Independence Blue Cross say that dream won't be easy to fulfill, if you don't make exercise a priority during your working years.

That vigorous activity helps counter what happens naturally as we age.

"We lose aerobic capacity, we lose flexibility, we lose muscle strength, we lose bone density," says Dr. Heidi Syropoulos.

Dr. Syropoulos says those downward effects are even greater for people with chronic diseases.

Exercising throughout adult life keeps you healthier longer as you age, helps ward off serious health problems, improves sleep, and can make you happier, by relieving stress & boosting your mood.

Athlete or not, it also improves the basics of getting around.

"It makes it less likely as people age that they will have falls," says Dr. Syropoulos.

She says even for busy workers, there are more options than ever.

"There are apps people can buy, people can find plans on the internet, people can find a friend or partner to walk with," she says.

Some employers, like Independence Blue Cross, have fitness centers, or treadmill desks where you can work AND walk at the same time.

IBC and many other workplaces encourage walk-at-lunch programs.

And many offer discounts and reimbursements as extra incentive to get you going.

Health insurers like Independence Blue Cross can also help subscribers track their fitness progress.

If you decide to pick up a new activity in your 50s or 60s, try a low-impact one.

"Swimming is great for strengthening, great for aerobic capacity, and you're doing any kind of wear and tear. Bicycling is also another excellent exercise for people who have arthritis," says Dr. Syropoulous.

So get moving - and keep counting those birthdays!
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