Improving Fitness in Five Easy Steps

Physical and Fiscal Fitness

The connection between physical and fiscal fitness has been addressed multiple times here at RetirementSavvy. I noted in Manage Your Fiscal and Physical Fitness that smoking is the most obvious and significant example. Not only are there numerous health consequences associated with smoking, it is an expensive habit. Money used to buy cigarettes cannot be used to build an emergency fund or contribute to retirement plans such as 401(k)s or IRAs. To be certain, smoking is a sure-fire way to negatively impact your physical and fiscal well-being with one habit. Change that single habit and radically improve your physical and fiscal well-being.

In the recent post, Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em … or Not, a good friend shared the story of what he and his wife – recently diagnosed and treated for lung cancer – formerly spent on cigarettes …

“Leah and I [Brad] both started smoking at about 15-years old. When we started smoking the cost was less than $1.00 per pack, when we quit 10 months ago, after about 35 years, the monthly cost was $600 – $700.”

Food for thought. What would the money spent on cigarettes over the last 35 years be worth today if invested and a modest gain of 3 – 5% was realized annually?

Physical and Fiscal Fitness - Read More

As I noted, smoking is obviously a biggie. But what are some other, perhaps less significant, ways to improve your physical and fiscal health? I have identified five easy actions you can perform, or habits you can modify, on a regular basis to improve both. While none is necessarily a game changer in itself, taken together, they can begin the process of changing your life. As the old saying goes, “the longest journey starts with the first step.”  Over time you will identify other little actions you can take, additional little steps, you can combine with these to propel you on your road to improved overall well-being.

Five Actions You Can Take Today

  • Push-ups. No need for an expensive, or even inexpensive, gym membership. These babies are free. Years ago, in junior high school, my wrestling coach taught me an easy way to knock out a couple hundred a day without giving it a lot of thought. During the last hour of watching television each night, knock out a chosen number (e.g. 10, 15, 20 or 25) of push-ups on each commercial break. It is typical for an hour-long program to contain five commercial breaks. Therefore, if you drop and knock out 20 push-ups during the last hour you watch TV each night, you can ring up 100 push-ups daily vice sitting back doing nothing while commercials you are probably ignoring drone on.
  • Sit-ups. Similar story to push-ups. No need for a gym membership. These babies are free. After you have turned off the TV and are preparing to call it a night, before you pull back the covers, drop down next to your bed and knock out 25 or 50 sit-ups. Your first act in the morning? You got it. Roll out of bed and knock out 25 or 50. Sit-ups, among the best ways to end and begin your day.
  • Water please. Have you ever bemoaned the fact that when you eat out, soft drinks – and particularly alcohol – have a significant mark up. You pay a lot more for the privilege of drinking soda or alcohol in restaurants. Order water instead. In the vast majority of restaurants – in the States anyway – water is free. Moreover, you probably don’t drink enough throughout the day. Water has numerous health benefits and soda has zero. Do like I do and order water in the restaurant and have a nice glass of red wine when you get home.
  • Split the entrée. The wife and I do this about 25% of the time we eat out. Anyone older than 25 or anyone that has seen the documentary Super Size Me knows that portion sizes have grown tremendously over the years. Simply put, we eat way more than we did in the past … and for many of us, more than we need. Unfortunately, people often confuse quantity with value. Just because you can buy a 128 oz. soda at Circle-K or 7 Eleven; or order a massive entrée that only costs $12, does not mean you should. Splitting an entrée usually means you will be eating an appropriate portion and you will spend about half as much.

Portion Distortion

  • Walk. Of course the environment you live in – proximity to desired services and establishments, and weather – will have a bearing on your ability to walk as much as possible. The wife and I are fortunate in that we live close to a mall and other shops; and living here in Southeastern Arizona means we can walk comfortable outdoors most of the year. If you’re walking that means you’re not burning gasoline. As an added bonus, our local government has done a nice job of recently expanding the walking/bike path which covers a significant area. Even if you can’t walk a great deal outdoors, take advantage of the opportunities to walk during your normal day. Consider your work day. Most people do everything they can to park as close as possible to their work entrance; and I don’t know about you, but I work in a two-story building and I’m amazed at the number of co-workers that will take the elevator when moving between floors. Alternatives? Park as far away from the entrance as possible and avoid elevators when possible and practical. A good walk does the body good and can save you a little gas.

Study Finds That Walking Could Be Better Than The Gym | Huffington Post

You’re only limited by your imagination in finding easy, subtle ways to improve your physical and fiscal well-being.

Blogger-in-Chief here at RetirementSavvy and author of Sin City Greed, Cream City Hustle and RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit.


  1. Hey, James. I love the push-up suggestion. Years ago, I was struggling to get a 350 lbs. bench press. I asked a guy at the gym who had a 500 lbs. bench press how to get over the hump. He said, “commercial push-ups. Just pick an a show and do push-ups until failure during every commercial break.” Worked like a charm. In a few months, I got up to 385. A week or so after that I attempted 405 and screwed up my shoulder. So my bench press career was over, but I learned about commercial push-ups. Thanks for the reminder. They’re a great way to get your body the resistance training it needs. And like you said, they’re FREE!

    • Good stuff, my friend. During my teens (I wrestled) thru mid-30s I lifted pretty hard, focusing on mass and strength. My goal on bench press was 400 pounds … never quite got there. My personal best – when I weighed 175 – was 385 lbs (like you). As I slid into my 40s, and after tweaking my shoulder pretty good (again like you), I determined I needed less mass and wanted to focus on maintaining some strength, but wanted to be more limber and lithe; hence less weights and more walking, hiking, kick boxing, biking, running, and yoga with the wife.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and story, my friend.

  2. Great tips. Portion control and staying active are great ways to stay fit.

    • Indeed. Also, if you eat less, you save more!

  3. Hey James,
    Great post, health is the most important part of life and these days society has been taken over by a sedentary lifestyle. Unhealthy food and not enough exercise seems to be the way of life for most people.

    I work an office job right now, but I choose to fight back and be healthy. I have a sit-stand desk and I bike to work everyday. Also taking exercises breaks every hour or so heps a lot!

    As for what to eat, I recently read a book called Anticancer by David Schreiber that has changed my whole outlook on food. He focuses on eating simple foods that are close to the source and have not been refined. I highly recommend the read.

    • I’ll have to check out the book. Thanks for the recommendation, my friend.

  4. Good alternatives to improving physically, I’ve done the push up thing, and its fun. I tend to do my workouts in the afternoon, and I turn off the TV and put on a good playlist to keep energy up. Walking is the best and I wish I could 1 day walk to work.

    • As I have grown a little older I enjoy walking a lot more. It’s great to get out, get some fresh air and take in the sights and sounds.

  5. Gosh portion sizes have become ridiculous over the years. When we were in Hawaii in January we went to a really famous breakfast place (can’t remember the name). We were TOLD to split an entree because it simply is way too big for 2 people. Now that’s extreme.

    • Many people, perhaps younger than 30 or 35, probably don’t recall that there was a time when portions were a lot less and the standard drinks were significantly different. I believe it was in the documentary Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock pointed out that that 20 years ago or so, what is now the small drink, 16 oz., used to constitute the large. Now the large – I believe – is 44 oz. The same with fries and everything else. It really has gotten out of control.

      Of course, it is the low-cost, low-nutrition foods/drinks, that vendors keep jacking up the portions and people feel like they are getting a ‘good’ deal or unfortunately, many that live in a precarious financial situation, find that while they would like to eat better, they are often stuck with the low-cost, low-nutrition alternatives. The documentary, A Place at the Table, takes an interesting look at ‘food deserts’ and the surprising correlation between poverty and obesity.

      Thanks for dropping by, my friend.

  6. I agree with splitting portions and walking. The only thing is that it is getting a lot colder outside, so I am not able to walk all the time like I am used to. I like the push-up and sit-up exercises during commercial breaks and the first and last thing to do!

    • It’s also getting a little cooler here, but fortunately since it’s Arizona, it’s still plenty warm to get in some good walks. Thanks for stopping by and kicking off the conversation.

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