It’s often said, the healthier you are, the longer you live.
But how does that adage hold up in retirement?
Can retirement deteriorate your health?
Retirement isn’t historically seen as the healthiest move, at least according to professors from the national bureau of economic research. The golden years may not be so golden after all.
Rising mortality rates in men over 62 led researchers to question if lifestyle changes associated with retirement—leisure, less physical activity, mental stimulation, and social interactions—were to blame. Their findings suggest the importance of keeping your physical and mental health a top priority throughout retirement.
Let’s take a look at a few ways to keep your mind and body sharp in retirement (and reasons why you want to).
Healthy Retirees Tend To Be Happier
It’s no surprise that in a Merrill Lynch/Age Wave report, a majority of retirees said that good health is the most crucial ingredient for a happy retirement.
It makes sense, right?
There’s a reason people who go to the gym are stereotypically happier people. More physical activity encourages lower heart rates, decreased cholesterol levels, and lowers the risk for fatal diseases such as heart failure.
Just Keep Moving
Experts recommend getting about 150 minutes of exercise per week for the average healthy adult. That doesn’t mean you need to spend that time in the gym on the treadmill exclusively. There are many ways to get physical activity, whether it’s walking outside, biking, gardening, going to the park with your grandchildren, bowling—the options are endless.
Strength and balance training are also vital as they can actively lower your risk of falling. Falls are responsible for about 32,000 deaths per year (CDC). Aside from fatality, falls put you at risk for other serious injuries that require intensive medical care, such as surgery for a broken hip and then months of physical therapy on top of that. Accidents happen, and they can’t always be prevented, but taking care of your health decreases your chance of fall risk.
Eating Well Isn’t Just For Growing Kids.
Physical exercise is only one component of a healthy lifestyle—you also have to focus on what you’re putting into your body.
Fruits and vegetables aren’t just good for your grandkids; they’re vital for you too! Perhaps you try to incorporate more veggie-focused meals once per week, like meatless Mondays. When you find a healthy balance between physical exercise and nutrition, you will feel better, stronger, more energized.
Exercising doesn’t just help boost your immune system, but it can actually promote independent living. When you’re physically fit, you can freely move about the day and be more in control of your life. You don’t have to rely on others to help or do work for you, which gives you the freedom and peace of mind knowing that you are still in control of your life.
Exercise Your Mind and Prioritize Wellbeing
Physical health and wellness are only one piece of the puzzle. Your mental health needs to be a top priority throughout retirement.
Retirees with an appetite for learning new things and challenging their brains help keep them mentally sharp. Exercising your mind may help prevent cognitive decline and reduce your risk of dementia—so it’s worth putting in the extra effort.
Not sure where to start? You can keep your mind sharp and improve cognitive abilities in numerous ways, including:
- Learning a language
- Playing a new instrument
- Cracking the Rubix cube, crossword puzzles, or other brain games
- Social activities
Another way to improve cognitive function and mental health is—you guessed it—exercise. Exercise works the muscles that activate mood-boosters which reduces stress and helps you fight off ailments such as depression.
As a bonus, exercise doesn’t have to be a solo activity! You can join a group fitness class or walking group to essentially kill two birds with one stone. You get the exercise your body needs and the social connection you crave.
Whether you want to read a book from a new genre every month, solve the latest crossword puzzle, or finally learn how to play the flute, you have a multitude of ways to exercise your mind. When you put your mental agility and health at the forefront, you’ll notice that you're more alert, sharp, and excited about new discoveries and opportunities.
Stay Active To Accomplish Your Goals
Many retirees use their time to do the things they wanted to do but didn’t have time while working.
Does that sound familiar to you?
You’re no longer bound behind office walls or a screen, so take advantage of it. Travel to Europe, see the Golden Gate Bridge, run a marathon, spend more one-on-one time with your family and grandchildren—whatever it is, go for it.
Make dedicated time to accomplish your goals and do the things that mean the most to you. You’ve spent a majority of your life working, planning, and saving for this special time, don’t squander it.
Now is the time to sit back and think about what's most important to you and what lights a fire inside of you because no matter how many miles you walk or crossword puzzles you solve, you won’t be living your most fulfilling life if you're not passionate about what you're doing.
Finding Your New Purpose
Take your time to flesh out your new purpose in retirement. Many retirees find a lot of meaning in volunteering and giving back to the community. Perhaps you find fulfillment with your family and supporting your grandchildren. Whatever your new purpose is, follow it.The reality is that finding a new purpose and implementing new lifestyle changes are challenging, but you don’t have to do it alone. Our team at Step by Step works with you and seeks to help you make deliberate decisions that encompass your goals and values. If you’re ready to take the next step and find financial contentment, let’s get in touch.