If we aren't investing..... we are losing!
I read an article a few years ago that made a huge impact on how I look at exercise. The article explains that if we aren't investing our money/savings, we are losing 2-3% per year just due to inflation. So if you do nothing, just put your money in a shoe box or under a mattress, $100 today will be worth $97 a year from now and 10 years from now it would be worth $70. I'm no hedge fund manager, but from what I've heard, if you shoot for an annual rate of return of 8%, you should be financially comfortable when you retire and able to enjoy yourself.
At any rate, here is what I took away from this brief article. Whether you invest or not, the human body and it's condition is strikingly similar to money. However, instead of losing money, we lose bone and muscle. The key components of our foundation just disappear. So if you do not exercise adequately enough, you will lose 2-3% of your bone and muscle in one year. Much like not noticing $3 dollars over a year, you won't notice this loss right away either. However, with the loss of muscle and bone (healthy foundation and the main sources of metabolism/calorie burn in our body), it is much more difficult to keep fat (unhealthy/excess material) off. This could be a 20-30% decrease in bone and muscle in 10 years. This leads to unwanted weight gain (fat). It also leads weakness, which is where your back and joint (knee/hip/ankle/shoulder) issues come from. When you stop using those joints because they hurt, you lose range of motion and flexibility. That wears the joint out. It's a vicious debilitating cycle.
Think about it this way. You live in a building right now. The frame of the building is your bone and muscle. The drywall and insulation is your fat and skin. Now remove 2-3% of the studs each year, and replace it with 2-3% more drywall and insulation. The foundation is now weak and trying to support all this excess, non-essential weight. This particular building will stand for a little while longer, but eventually it is going to need a lot of work done. What makes you think your body is any different?
This process that I just provided for you is called the middle-aged spread. The good news is there is an answer to it. It's called exercise. Exercise is your retirement fund and depending on what and how you invest, you'll see a much greater return. I'm not sure about actual numbers, and an 8% annual return is probably not attainable for very long, unless it is your job. However, let's look at it from a time-invested standpoint, much like setting aside 5% of your income to retirement. If you calculate 5% of a 40 hour work week that equals 2 hours. That is one hour per week longer than the American Heart Association currently recommends. With this kind of investment in your health and time, you will not only build more bone and muscle, you will also have a healthy body with healthy joints. You will keep excess weight off and most importantly, you will actually be able to enjoy your retirement.
Folks, your body is the only thing you have to live in. It is your house and it is your retirement fund. If you lose all of your belongings, your body will be the only thing left for you to live in. This is an extreme case, but don't let your body crumble, because some day you will need the shelter.