Are you trying to take better care of yourself this year? Great! We enjoy having you around. Here are 12 simple ways to be healthier, both now and in retirement.
Forgive. Researchers have discovered a link between forgiveness and physical health. One study showed that people who forgive have fewer coronary problems than people who hold grudges. Other studies show that those who forgive have less anger, less depression, decreased anxiety and more hope for the future. The research also shows that forgiveness improves your mood and makes you more optimistic. Don’t let old wounds fester. Forgive and move on.
Volunteer. Several large studies show that volunteering can have positive effects on your health and well-being. Doing good deeds can reduce stress and lower cortisol levels which can strengthen your immune and cardiovascular systems and ultimately lengthen your life. Use some of your extra time in retirement to volunteer. Chances are it will make you healthier and happier.
Find purpose and meaning. Studies show that when you feel like your life has purpose and meaning, you will experience less stress (and the negative health effects it produces), you’ll be better able to cope with challenges and you’ll be more inclined to take better care of yourself. Studies also show that having purpose makes people more likely to be physically active and more likely to use preventative health services like getting a cholesterol check or prostate exam. Looking for ways to find purpose and meaning? Read this: 15 Practical ways to live a purposeful life.
Get rid of belly fat. A recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed a strong correlation between belly fat and cognitive abilities as you age. Those with higher levels of belly fat performed worse on cognitive tests and they were also more likely to develop diabetes or have a heart attack.
Eat less. Maybe you’ve heard the expression, “You can’t outrun your fork.” If you’re trying to lose the belly fat mentioned above, focus on how much you eat rather than just exercise. You need to burn about 3,500 calories to lose a pound. Most people could trim 500 calories per day if they shrunk their portion size or cut back on snacking. That would result in a pound per week of weight loss. To burn the same calories running, you’d need to run about 5 miles per day or 35 miles per week. Exercise is good, but most of us aren’t running an ultra-marathon every week, so watch the Ben and Jerry’s instead.
Retire sooner rather than later. According to research done by the National Bureau of Economic Research, retiring can improve your overall happiness and health. The research found that life satisfaction improves immediately for retirees and their health improves gradually over a period of years.
Retire later rather than sooner. There are other studies that show that retiring later (after 65) may extend your life. I suspect this has to do with the quality of your pre-retirement life. If you have a fulfilling career, staying in the workforce can help you stay socially and mentally engaged and reduce the risk of certain diseases. If you hate your job and have plenty of friends outside of work, retiring sooner (as mentioned in #6) might provide more benefits.
Meditate/Pray. Meditation carries a number of benefits. It reduces stress, anxiety and blood pressure. It improves self-awareness and can help you sleep better. It helps you live more in the present. It can improve emotional health and reduce age related memory loss. There are several apps that can help you with meditation, including Calm and Headspace.
Don’t smoke. This one pretty much goes without saying.
Get enough sleep. The research on sleep has gotten pretty compelling. Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. Getting enough sleep can strengthen your immune system, help you maintain a healthy weight and help reduce your risk of serious health problems like diabetes and heart disease. It can also improve your mood and help you to get along well with others, which will help with # 11.
Work on your relationships. Retirement is a risky time for relationships. Death can take a spouse or close friend. Leaving work might alter key relationships or social interaction. Friends might retire and move away. Those are all bad, because loneliness is linked to poor health and early death. In fact, loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking about 15 cigarettes per day. The takeaway? Invest in friendships. Invest in your family. Work on your relationship with your spouse. Being lonely and isolated can kill you.
Exercise. We all know that exercise is important, but recent research shows just how important it is to retirees. Not only does regular exercise reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke, but a recent study by Cardiff University showed that exercise was the single biggest influence on whether or not study participants developed dementia. If you want to maintain your faculties and have a healthy, active retirement, then get regular exercise.