Exploring Retirement

Welcome to the April 2016 edition of Exploring Retirement!. Please do write and let us know your thoughts on Exploring Retirement. We would love to hear from you.

Each month we provide articles on well-being in retirement and also feature an activity to explore. Exploring Retirement is written by and for retired people, to assist active retirees make the most of their additional years of good health. No one knows it all, we are all explorers in this new land. We trust that you will continue to enjoy our monthly publication and please tell your friends about the site.

Reader David Goyder has been in touch to offer us an article on his hobby of model engineering. As a boy I spent many happy hours building models with a "Mecanno" set, so I can appreciate the pleasure to be derived from making working models with your own hands. You can read David's article under the Retirement: My Way banner. New writers are welcome, so if you are interested, please contact editor@exploringretirement.co.uk. For ideas to write about, have a glance at the July 2014 issue of Exploring Retirement, available by clicking on "Past Issues" in the navigation bar on the left of this page. These are only suggestions, please contact us if you have a different topic you would like to share your thoughts on.

Writing team

We have three regular contributors on our writing team. Here they are with a brief note explaining their principal areas of interest:

John Copelton, EditorDr John Copelton - well-being in retirementMichael McSorley, contributorMichael McSorley - lively comment on sport and cultureJeannette Lewis, contributorJeannette Lewis - inspiring ideas on retirement living

The health benefits of exercise versus household chores

The health benefits of physical exercise are many and various. They include -

Most health experts recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity per day. Any activity will help but it has to be moderate to intense if you really want to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and obesity. A recent major study combined activity data from six large studies involving a total of 661,137 mostly middle aged men and women from the United States and Europe. In summary, they found the maximum benefit in terms of longevity came at a little over an hour a day of moderate activity such as walking - or about half that amount of vigorous activity such as 2.25 hours a week of running at 10-min mile pace. Doing substantially more is safe but provided no added health benefit. If you're not that keen on going to the gym or playing sport (and surveys suggest that by the time we are in our sixties, less than 30% of us are achieving even the minimum recommended level of fitness needed to maintain health), then can you cheat your way to 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity by doing regular household chores? And if so, which ones count?

To measure the intensity of an activity, scientists use something called a MET score (Metabolic Equivalent of Task) which is a measure of the energy used per hour. A MET score of 1 is the sort of energy you would expend watching TV. Anything which gets a score above three counts as moderate activity. Above six and you are in the realms of "vigorous". Ironing and dusting, not surprisingly, score modestly, with MET scores of 1.3 and 1.5 respectively. Vacuuming and mopping, score just above three METs, making them moderate-intensity. Outdoor activities like planting flowers score 3.4, washing the car can score 3.6 or above, and mowing the lawn can achieve 4.4. Interestingly, climbing stairs rates more highly than vigorous weight training! You would need to climb them rather a lot though to get any real benefit.

The Compendium of Physical Activities

This useful compendium was developed by Dr Bill Haskell of Stanford University and gives MET values for a wide range of activities. For example, six minutes a day of brisk walking scores between 3 and 4, depending on how briskly you walk. Clearing your garage rates a 4.5 which is probably why we never get round to it. If you prefer to do something more enjoyable, then dancing can clock up an impressive 7.8 METs.

For activities that are more intense, there are a range of things that, according to the Compendium of Physical Activities, you can do around the garden. Vigorous activity means anything that rates over six METs, and to achieve that you would need to be either "chopping wood and splitting logs" (6.3), "digging, spading, composting" (7.8), or "shovelling snow, by hand" (6.0). According to the same source, the only domestic activity that falls into the vigorous range is "scrubbing floors and bathtub" (6.5), though "moving heavy furniture" (5.8) comes close.

Whatever you decide to do, it is better to spread your activity across the week rather than trying to get it all over and done with in one go. Some of the health benefits of exercise are quite transient and may only last a day at most,. It is better to be doing a bit of activity every day rather than condensing it all into a couple of days.

Featured Activity - Green Gyms

Green Gyms are fun and free outdoor sessions where volunteers are guided in practical activities such as planting trees, sowing meadows and establishing wildlife ponds.The Green Gym concept was originally developed in the late 1990s by Dr William Bird an Oxford-based doctor and Conservation Volunteers, the community volunteering charity. The Green Gym programme aims to provide people with a way to enhance their fitness and health while taking action to improve the outdoor environment. It can be seen as enabling people to get fit who would not normally attend a conventional gym or sports centre.

Just like in a conventional gym, members are encouraged to take part in a warm-up routine to prepare their bodies for physical exercise and also a cool-down session when the work is finished, to minimise muscle soreness. GPs now prescribe Green Gym sessions to patients to encourage them to improve their health and wellbeing. By taking part, participants are encouraged to make other positive changes to their lifestyle, such as walking and cycling more. Green Gyms also enhance mental wellbeing through increased contact with nature, the social benefits of group activity and helping people contribute something positive to their community.

Green Gyms are free, good for your health and, very importantly, a great way to meet people and make new friends. There are now over 60 Green Gyms in the UK. You can use an interactive map of the UK to find a Green Gym near you. Just click here.

here. To learn more about this initiative and find out how you can discover a Green Gym near you, take a look at this short video clip -

Retirement - My Way

Making working models has always had an appeal. To learn more about one readers experience of this fascinating hobby, click here.


Michael McSorley

Michael muses on why so many creative musicians, writers, painters etc., leave a body of unfinished work. To read his thoughts on this intriguing topic, click here.

Jeanette Lewis

Jeanette is "down sizing" and has put her home of 25 years up for sale. In her article she describes how the experience of the place we call home impacts on our well-being. Click here to read Jeanette's thoughts on "home".


Reflections is intended to showcase short pieces of poetry or prose that reflect on our life experience. This month features another poem by my late friend and colleague, Philip Clarke.

To read "The Moon", by Philip Clarke, click here.

I took this photo of the cherry blossom in our local park to remind us that Spring has finally sprung!