Active residents show how exercise enhances wellbeing, says Metlifecare.

As Kiwis enter retirement, they'd be forgiven for feeling like they've earned a bit of rest and relaxation.

After a lifetime of putting in the hard yards, the only thing most of us want to work hard on is taking it easy. However, a growing body of evidence suggests the best way to take it easy is to exercise.

David Hoskins, Programme Co-ordinator of the never2old sport and recreation programme at Auckland University of Technology (AUT), says physical well-being is the ability to maintain your body in optimal health, whatever your age.

"Factors that influence your health are a balanced diet, participating in regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, staying well hydrated, getting out in the sunshine and fresh air and getting sufficient rest and good quality sleep," he says.

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"Paying attention to your physical health will make you feel good, keep you motivated and can prevent and manage a number of illnesses including heart disease, some cancers and depression."

Greenwich Gardens residents Lorraine Sutherland and Jeanette Hayden during yoga. Photo / Supplied.
Greenwich Gardens residents Lorraine Sutherland and Jeanette Hayden during yoga. Photo / Supplied.

There are a wide variety of physical activities and facilities for residents within Metlifecare villages across the country. Most offer indoor and outdoor bowls, croquet, putting greens, petanque, tai chi, yoga, zumba, dance, aqua aerobics, swimming and gymnasiums.

Two residents who keep active in their village are mother daughter duo, Mary and Susan Healy, both living in West Auckland's Crestwood Village.

Mary, who turned 100 this year, credits her longevity to an active lifestyle which included attending yoga classes until she was 97 with Susan, 74. She still enjoys a daily walk, yoga from home and the occasional game of indoor bowls.

"Staying active in some form or another keeps you mobile and strong; it also helps maintain independence. I enjoy a good walk every day," Mary says.

Like mother like daughter, Susan also continues to keep fit through yoga, swimming and walking: "Exercise and keeping physically active helps you achieve a balanced lifestyle. I find my activities help with my sleep as well."

Residents are also encouraged to introduce their own activities to the village – exactly what Kapiti Village resident Rex Hebley, 75, did. 'Putt It' sees residents using a bowling green for putting – with numbered blocks from one to nine representing holes positioned anywhere on the green.

Many villagers who used to play golf are now turning up with their favourite putter. The activity is a popular form of light exercise, especially for older residents, Hebley says.

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"We have residents of different skill levels and ages playing," he says. "It's an easy way to stay active and we find it's been quite a hit with residents in their 90s. You can play it by yourself or make it social."

Another resident-initiated activity is Sport Wellness Fukiya (pronounced 'who-key-ya') or Japanese blow darts which Robyn Stephen and her late husband Roy introduced to Waitakere Gardens with the help of their coach Adrian Roberts.

It is a cross between archery, darts and target shooting with a following of over 30,000 in Japan. Each competitor has five darts to be blown through a pipe – using a Japanese abdominal breathing technique.

Robyn Stephen practising Fukiya blowdarts at Waitakere Gardens. Photo Supplied.
Robyn Stephen practising Fukiya blowdarts at Waitakere Gardens. Photo Supplied.

The best part about the sport, says Robyn, is that virtually anybody can do it: "It is an all-ages sport that most people can do, whether eight or 80. I find it very calming because such a huge focus is placed on your breathing technique.

"There are physical benefits to the sport with the obvious improvement in breathing and mental benefits because it does require a lot of focus.

"There is so much you can do when you retire but you have to plan it or you can feel a bit lost, that's what makes a village great. You also have to stay well so it's important to take up activities that are both physically and mentally stimulating," says Robyn.

There are a wide range of activities to keep you feeling fit and healthy at each of
Metlifecare's 25 thriving retirement villages across the North Island: www.metlifecare.co.nz