When I quit smoking some years back my appetite for food picked up and I started to pack on the pounds. So I took up jogging to get in better shape. But that had its own problems; running can really beat up your body - your feet, your knees, your hips.
So I cast about for something a little safer, and came up with bicycling. Granted, it doesn’t deliver quite the same level of cardiovascular workout that jogging affords. But it can still be a pretty decent workout, and it’s a decent way to see the countryside.
There are plenty of safe, low-impact exercise and physical conditioning routines you can take up to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Take walking, for instance, the low-impact response to jogging. England’s Stroke Association figures a daily 30-minute walk cuts your risk of a stroke by a quarter. It lowers your level of LDL (bad) cholesterol, while boosting HDL (good) cholesterol. It strengthens your heart, helps you lose weight and elevates your mood and energy level.
More and more communities are incorporating bike and walking paths into their development plans, so you have a way of getting around that doesn’t tangle with cars. But if you live outside the Sun Belt you might be wary of setting out along any pathway on a snowy, freezing January day. That’s where shopping malls come in handy, as they welcome walkers, especially in the mornings. And gyms seem to be everywhere these days, so when a mall won’t do, there’s always a tread mill nearby. Gyms also offer a wintertime substitute for biking – a stationery bike.
A lot of gyms offer elliptical trainers, which more or less keep your whole body in motion as you constantly peddle while moving your arms back and forth on poles attached to those pedals. Most ellipticals have a tension controller, so you can adjust the pedals and arms to offer more resistance for a more strenuous workout. And all the while, your feet never leave the pedal, so you’re not banging up your hips or knees.
But why stop there? Rowing machines, though not as common, offer a great workout. They’re sort of a sitting-down version of an elliptical, since they keep most of your body in continual motion. Likewise, they have tensioners that allow you to adjust the difficulty level of the exercise.
You’ll also find a lot of helpful resistance in water. And swimming offers a great way to exercise at a very low impact level, because of the bouyance effects of water.
And then there is yoga. I always thought of it as more of a mental and spiritual exercise. Granted, there are those components, but you can also find a yoga class that will provide quite a lot of physical exertion, as well. My daughter amps up her yoga instruction with a class in hot yoga. Here, they crank up the thermostat in the yoga room – maybe 100 degrees - so you sweat a lot during a session. You shed not only some unneeded water weight but releasing toxins from your body, to boot.
Indoors or out, in a pool or drydocked at a rowing machine, you have opportunities aplenty to tone your muscles, improve your heart health, and safely stay fit.
A while back I was having coffee with a financial professional, and he was chatting about the need to reduce volatility. I innocently asked if what he was saying was “if a person had a choice between an investment that plugged along paying 5% every year versus one that could make 2% to 20% every year, are you saying the person should choose the 5% one because the other one was more volatile?” He quickly responded by saying, “No, upside volatility is a good thing.”
The point is this gentleman wasn’t really talking about avoiding volatility; he was talking about avoiding losses. Losses are an entirely different thing from volatility.
There’s a lot of talk on the financial channels about minimizing or managing stock market volatility, and generally it sounds like they think you should avoid it, but what they really mean is trying to limit the size of the loss. The way they typically try to do it is by splitting up the money between different securities and either let it pretty much sit there (also known as asset allocation) or they try to time the market by moving between different securities on a more active scale. Their goal is to keep score of how much volatility there is, because they believe that rising volatility makes losses more likely. How well do they do at avoiding losses by managing the volatility? Good question. Since the market has been heading up since 2009, there haven’t been any recent tests to see whether this all works. I guess we’ll find out when the next bear market occurs.
There is a way to avoid volatility altogether and that is with a fixed rate annuity. This annuity pays a stated interest rate for a stated number of years and at the end of the period you can either keep it in the annuity or move it someplace else. Of course, it doesn’t offer the upside potential of securities, but the last time I looked many of them were very competitive against certificates of deposit yields.
A fixed index annuity eliminates downside volatility – you can’t lose what you have if the stock market goes down, but it keeps a bit of upside volatility in that the interest earned may be quite a bit higher than the fixed rate annuity earns. This combination of protection and potential explains why an estimated $50 billion of fixed index annuities were purchased last year.
Wall Street folks seem to have a tough time saying the “L” word (loss), so they instead call it downside volatility. However, volatility is an entirely different thing. For example, with the fixed index annuity you benefit from volatility because it means you could earn more interest (and since it’s a fixed annuity you never have to worry about the “L” word). As that financial professional said, “upside volatility is a good thing.”
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