Planning for retirement is a topic more and more seniors are having these days. With the uncertainty of the financial market, pitted against the increase in medical bills, finding ways to stretch hard-earned money saved from retirement funds, can seem daunting. But despite the current state of the economy, individuals, even those 65 years and older, can increase their savings just by adding physical activity into their lifestyle.

For decades, studies have proven that a proper diet and exercise program will significantly reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol and osteoporosis. What many don’t realize is that the financial savings a preventative program can make to a retirement fund, can out-earn capital interest earned from even the most aggressive stock.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (ACDCP), falls are the leading cause of non fatal injury and hospitalizations for trauma. In 2010, 2.3 million non fatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments costing close to $30 billion in medical costs. That’s one in every three seniors. Fifty percent of falls can be prevented through strength training and balance exercises.

Findings from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) found an increase in prescription drug usage among seniors and found a rise in the cost of prescription by 66 percent in the past 10 years, from $105 to $174. Contributing factors stem from an increase in chronic illnesses among seniors. These unexpected medical costs can quickly wipe out retirement savings leaving vulnerability and financial dependence towards seniors in their golden years.

A lifestyle portfolio can prevent that.

The National Institute of Aging (NIA) recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week and strength training activities that work all muscle groups two or more days a week. Brisk walking, dancing, active yard work, tennis and swimming are all effective ways of increasing your heart rate and cardiovascular health. Lifting weights is a sound strength training program that will strengthen your muscles and fight against osteoporosis. Tai Chi and yoga are great vehicles to develop flexibility, improve mood and prevent falls, a growing concern in the baby boomer community.

Healthy eating is also very important. Andrea McDaniel, a registered dietician and owner of True Health agrees. “Eating healthy is important because it provides the body with the appropriate nutrients for optimal health. Nutrients from healthy foods regulate which genes are expressed or not,” she says. These genes influence chronic illnesses or obesity. “There is no drug that can regulate genetic expression more powerfully than your diet can,” she says. McDaniel recommends increasing protein to aid in osteoporosis and incorporating healthy fats to control inflammation and absorb important minerals. Foods most likely to contribute to inflammation include refined and processed foods, so are best left alone. Adding vegetables and fruit will improve metabolism, the immune system and provide antioxidants to your body.

Walking instead of driving, taking the stairs instead of the elevator and dancing will do wonders for your waistline and protect your financial investment for decades to come. Though the risks of moderate exercise are low, it is always best to consult with your doctor to discuss what is right for you.

Marcia Ra-Akbar, NASM-CPT, is a certified personal trainer and fitness writer and can be reached at