Health in Retirement: What Can You Do Now?

December 5, 2016
DMD Staff

Get in the habit of doing these things now to promote good health later in your retirement years.

Each year, research studies confirm what you may already suspect: Failing health in retirement is consistently among future retirees’ biggest concerns. The latest study, from PlanSponsor magazine, found that 54% of Millennial men are mostly concerned about their health in retirement—significantly more than the 46% who are worried about how much they’ll have saved when they retire. More than half of women share the same concern. These concerns persist despite that fact that 8 in 10 Millennials consider themselves in good health.

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While it’s impossible to predict the twists and turns your health may take as you approach retirement, there certainly are some steps you can take now and throughout your working years to increase the likelihood that your health won’t be a major factor in your ability to have a full and vigorous retirement. Let’s take a look over 2 parts.

Look, none of these strategies is rocket science. But it’s important to remember that all the little things—both positive and negative—add up over a lifetime. Lifestyle adjustments made now and followed through daily, weekly, and monthly, will give you the best chance to reserve your retirement spending for hobbies, family pursuits, travel, and whatever else you have planned for your retirement years.

Stay Active, and Stay in Shape

Simply put, every analysis shows that if your health deteriorates at a faster rate, it will cost you in terms of happiness and dollars. Your level of health will be a huge determinant of your overall satisfaction. So stay in shape now as best you can. Regular physical activity has physical and mental benefits, of course, keeping cholesterol down, burning fat, and releasing endorphins that simply make you feel better mentally. The older you get, the more important it is to maintain some physical activity. Although the rigor of those pursuits may wane a bit—you might not be playing 5 nights a week of singles tennis like you used to—the need for activity remains the same.

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Keep a Balanced Diet

My biggest weakness in the world is the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. I could eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but of course I don’t. You know what foods are good for you and which ones to avoid. Lean meats, fruits, veggies: good. Processed food, breads, sweets: generally bad. What’s funny about choosing to eat right is that it ends up following the basic laws of inertia: If you find yourself eating right most of the time, you’re likely to continue to do so. If you find yourself eating foods that are not so great for you, you will likely continue to. If eating poorly is a habit of yours, you don’t have to change everything in one fell swoop; that isn’t sustainable anyway. Start by slowly weeding out foods you know are hurting your long-term health. You may find that you don’t miss them that much. As long as you don’t try and go cold turkey on the Reese’s!

In part 2, we’ll look at some slightly less obvious but still very basic ideas for maintaining good health throughout your retirement years.