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Transition into a Healthy Retirement

Retirement Can Be A Renaissance

-- By Rebecca Pratt, Staff Writer

Once upon a time there was a distinguished politician who went into retirement after a long career of hectic schedules, important tasks, and continual limelight. After hanging around the house for the first week of his new-found freedom, he was gently chastised by his wife, who informed him that she had married him for better or worse, but not for lunch.

Do you also need some help making the transition from busy worker bee to busy retiree? The journey from working to retiring is one of life’s great transitions-- even if you’ve planned for it and are already looking forward to it. A time of delicate decisions and scary new possibilities, retirement can feel both exhilarating and confusing. Choices made now will reverberate through the rest of your life. Choices about fitness and nutrition may be the most important of all.

How will you spend your time, and what do you want to do on a typical day? What do you want to learn, and what do you want to teach? Where and how will you live? Is it possible now to resurrect some of the dreams and goals you’ve deferred? As you plan the rest of your life, incorporating your beliefs, values, and commitments, be sure to give proper attention to your physical well-being. If you’re in good shape, great! You’ll want to maintain that valuable condition. If not, there’s no better time to make healthy changes. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Physical activity is more important than ever.

  • If you’re not interested in joining a formal fitness program, you can stay physically active in other ways: bowling, fishing, gardening, biking, or community projects that require elbow grease.
  • If you are interested in a formal fitness program, find out if local churches, recreation centers, or civic associations offer classes and activities for seniors, especially since they may also offer discounts.
  • To limber your limbs—and to maintain at least one activity that’s free, low-risk, and convenient almost anywhere—try to walk or jog 20-30 minutes, three to five times a week.
  • Partner up with a fitness buddy—someone who’s as serious as you about fitness. Make your exercise regimen a good excuse to maintain friendships, or renew old ties that you missed when you were tethered to the workday world.
  • Consider making strength training a priority—it offers numerous benefits for seniors, such as increasing energy levels throughout the day, reducing stress and anxiety, delaying or preventing age-related disorders, and enhancing sleep, balance, endurance, and flexibility.<pagebreak>
Eat, drink, and be merry— and healthy.
  • Eat a variety of foods.
  • Avoid high-cholesterol foods and limit your total fat and saturated fat.
  • Increase fiber intake and, especially if you’re a woman, calcium.
  • Limit your use of sugar, salt, and sodium compounds.
  • Drink at least 8 glasses of water every day.
  • Make sure prescribed medications don’t clash with your food choices.
  • Get a good night’s sleep on a regular basis.
Set out on new adventures!
  • Schedule at least part of your time according to the goals you set for yourself—it’s a perverse axiom of human nature that the more time you have, the more you waste. (It’s the converse of the old adage that "if you want something done, you should ask a busy person.")
  • Learn something new-- experts say intellectual stimulation is one of the basic needs of human beings. Make a list of all the things you’ve always wanted to learn or try, then pick out something that’s feasible now.
  • Help around the house—your spouse will be thrilled! If your partner has always been the one to cook, turn the tables. Take a gardening or healthy cooking class, then show off what you’ve learned. Experiment with new food that you’ve never tried.
  • Take up a fitness activity that you can do with your better half—tennis, ballroom dancing, mini-marathons. Focus on fun.
  • Volunteer for worthwhile activities, particularly those closest to your heart. When you have purpose in your life, getting and staying fit becomes easier.
  • Make a conscious effort to build both exercise and healthy eating into any travels you indulge in. When planning an itinerary, look for ways to be active, like swimming, walking, or boating. Limit rich or calorie-laden meals to once or twice a week. Make balanced, healthful foods the bulk of your fare.
Clearly, it doesn’t take a lot of money or major planning to make the most of your golden years. You too can turn your retirement into a renaissance!
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