Our bodies work hard for us from the moment we’re born – growing, changing, adapting, for many years, until the time comes when naturally, things slow down and we start to feel a little worn out. There is no reason we shouldn’t feel healthy, active and able-bodied well into retirement. With the proper diet, nutrition, exercise and care, those latter years of life can be as pain free and healthy as possible.
Health problems like chronic pain, arthritis and joint stiffness are with you all day, decreasing your quality of life. While avoiding sweet treats and alcohol might be everyone’s least favorite advice, it may be well worth it to improve your moods, energy levels, sleep, and the way you feel throughout the day. Things like white refined bread and pastas, cakes and cookies, sweets, soda and alcohol all increase acidity levels in the body, which leads to inflammation. Inflammation can cause joint stiffness and generalized pain, among other things. Foods like vegetables, whole grains, brown rice, beans and legumes like lentils, healthy proteins like fish and chicken, and unrefined starches like sweet potatoes all contribute to the alkalization of the body, reducing inflammation. A simple, general rule for a healthy diet is to eat foods as they come in nature – the less refined and processed, the better.
Increasing mobility and improving flexibility is one of the key ways we can stay in peak physical shape during those retirement years. While older joints might not appreciate high-impact exercises like running or jogging, there are plenty of other ways to stay fit. Things like aerobics, yoga and swimming are low impact exercises that provide a perfect way to stay limber, flexible and strong. Even a simple daily routine of stretches is excellent for joints, tendons and muscles, whose strength and flexibility decrease with age. By doing what you can to prevent and slow this decline, you postpone or even eliminate the need for prescriptions, assistive medical equipment or Home Health Aides, and maintain your independence.
While looking after the physical components of health is important, staying mentally strong and able requires maintenance as well. Employment often offers mental stimulation, but after retirement extra care needs to be taken to keep your mind active. Physical activity has been shown to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s, but mental exercises are available as well to assist in such purposes. Creative activities like writing, painting, or playing a musical instrument will stimulate the mind, as well as learning a new language, playing sudoku, or doing difficult crosswords. Anything that is a mental challenge and requires some thinking, cognitive energy and use of memory will help to flex that mental muscle and keep it strong.
Another important aspect of mental health is to keep close connections with friends and loved ones. Having a social network has been shown to improve happiness and mental functioning, while loneliness and isolation has a deleterious impact on health and well-being and is one of the biggest challenges during retirement. Social activities like book clubs, golf, volunteering, and classes help to form connections and fulfill the need for socialization.
Retirement doesn’t have to mean slowing down – when all aspects of your lifestyle are optimized to maximize their benefit to your well-being, you can stay active and healthy well into your latter years, helping you to enjoy your life to the fullest.