Dr. Robert Swift - Article in Living Well

Posted on: 03/15/2013

Have a Healthy Retirement:



 Dr. Robert D. Swift                

              So you have been working and saving and are now ready to retire. Now what? More time with the grand kids, travel, or maybe a new hobby? Most people retire later in life. During that time the stress of work, activity, family and friends ends up taking its toll. Retirees discover aches and pains as they start to enjoy more gold, tennis, bike riding, yoga or whatever new hobby or activity occupies the free time that comes with retirement. My mother always says, “I have no idea how I ever worked full time and raised two boys, I’m so busy enjoying my retirement.”

                To keep yourself safe from these ailments and allow you to enjoy the busy days of your retirement, let us look at prevention. An ounce of prevention is always worth a pound of cure. One of Newton’s laws of physics states a body in motion tends to stay in motion, and a body at rest tends to stay at rest. In retirement, that statement holds true. If you want to rest, by all means you deserve it, but don’t stop moving. Make sure your retirement doesn’t end up being the start of your downturn, but rather the end of one chapter and the beginning of another.

                Let’s tackle Newton’s law. Long gone are the days when health care providers told people with arthritis to “rest their joints.” In fact, physical activity can reduce pain and improve function, mobility, mood, and quality of life for most adults with ailments including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and lupus. Physical activity can also help people with arthritis manage other chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Most people with injury and ailments can safely participate in a self-directed physical activity program or join one of many programs available in the community.

                Many people want to know how to get started. I advise people to be SMART.


                Many adults with arthritis are inactive even though their doctor may have told them being active will help their arthritis. You may want to be more active but just don’t know where to start or how much to do. You may worry using your joints and muscles may make your arthritis worse. The good news is that the opposite is true, physical activity will help your arthritis! The first key to starting activity safely is to start low. This may mean you can only walk 5 minutes at a time every other day. The second key is to go slow. People with arthritis may take more time for their body to adjust to a new level of activity. For example, healthy children can usually increase the amount of activity a little each week, while other adults and those with chronic conditions may take 3-4 weeks to adjust to a new activity level. You should add activity in small amounts, at least 10 minutes at a time, and allow enough time for your body to adjust to the new level before adding more activity. Use the pool! Just walking or exercising in a pool is a great exercise.


                Remember, any activity is better than none. Your joint symptoms, such as pain, stiffness and fatigue, may come and go, with good days and bad days. You may want to stop activity completely when your joint symptoms increase. It is important to first try to modify your activity to stay as active as possible without making your symptoms worse. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Decrease the number of days per week you do activity - walk on 2 days instead of 4 days. 
  • Decrease the time you are active each day – walk 15 minutes each day instead of 30 minutes.
  • Change the type of activity – instead of walking, ride a bicycle or take a water exercise class.

When your symptoms have returned to normal, slowly increase your activity back to your starting level.


People with arthritis can do many types of moderate or vigorous activities; some can even run marathons! A general rule is to do activities that are easy on the joints like walking, bicycling, water aerobics, or dancing. These activities have a low risk of injury and do not twist or “pound” the joints too much. It is also important to pick a variety of activities that you enjoy, this will help keep you from getting bored and make it easier to stick with your activity plan. 


      Safety is important for starting and maintaining your activity plan. If you are currently inactive or do not have confidence in planning your own physical activity, a class designed for people with arthritis may be a good option. Some people with arthritis feel safer by starting an activity program in a class with a trained instructor and get support and confidence by participating with other people with arthritis. Local chapters of the Arthritis Foundation offer 2 classes, the Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program and the Arthritis Foundation Aquatics Program, in many communities.

       If you currently do some activity or feel confident that you can safely plan your own activity program, look for safe places to be physically active. For example, if you walk in your neighborhood or local park, make sure the sidewalks and pathways are level and free of obstructions, are well-lighted, and are separated from heavy traffic.


You should already be under the care of a health care professional for your arthritis, who is a good source of information about physical activity. Health care professionals and certified exercise professionals can answer your questions about how much and what types of activity match your abilities and health goals. We are here to help you enjoy your retirement. Stay active, stay healthy, and have a happy retirement!


Dr. Swift practices at Auburn Orthopaedic Specialists.





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