Moving your body is a priority for happiness in retirement. It’s a sensible way to make sure that you get the most out of every day.
We all know that any type of sickness of disability takes something away from enjoying life — and achieving happiness in retirement means that you want to be able to enjoy life.
It is often said that we spend the first 40 years of our lives taking our health for granted and then spend the next 40 years taking care of the health that we took for granted.
Some aspects of declining health seem inevitable as we grow older. Whether it is a small pain in the neck, a sore back, or some chronic health condition — good health just can’t be assumed — you have to work at it.
Keeping your body fit and healthy makes practical sense. Aside from good nutrition, stress management and getting enough sleep, caring for your body involves moving. Why?
Let’s begin with the desire to live independently — for as long as possible. We’ve all seen the advertisements for various types of retirement and nursing facilities. We may also have visited parents, elderly relatives, or friends who have moved (or been moved) to a ‘care’ facility/home. No matter how much money is spent marketing these options, nobody chooses that lifestyle except from necessity. Most of us want to postpone or avoid any compromise to independent living.
Every time I feel tempted to slack off my daily fitness routines — stretches, yoga, swimming, walking — I remind myself that I am moving my body as one method of caring for and maintaining my independence..
Another practical reason for moving your body is to keep joints flexible. About 10 years ago I noticed that I was having more difficulty rotating my head when I turned to see where I was going when I had my car in reverse gear. My neck hurt when I turned my head.
That realization got me going to yoga classes with more regularity. I knew that I had to move my body if I wanted to stay flexible. Difficulty turning my head when backing up in my car was a signal of other potential problems.
Yoga may not be for you but other forms of gentle exercise such as aqua fit, tai chi or Pilates will help to keep your body limber while offering a fitness routine that is suitable for older adults.
Taking care of physical health also involves protecting mobility. Shortly after retiring I learned that I needed a hip replacement due to osteoarthritis. Walking became more and more difficult and stairs were almost unmanageable. I tried to avoid the inevitable seeking 2nd and 3rd opinions, going to sports medicine specialists and exhausting myself with physiotherapy. Eventually I realized that if I wanted to walk again without a cane or a walker I would need to have the surgery.
Recovery was more difficult than planned and I often sat in my living room envying people who walked effortlessly. I vowed never again to take mobility for granted. Even today, I am grateful when I can spend an afternoon traipsing through an art gallery, or managing the long corridors in airports when travelling.
Maintaining healthy body weight is a great benefit of taking care of physical health through movement. Any type of exercise — even walking at a moderate pace increases metabolism and promotes cardiovascular health.
On cold mornings when I lie in bed and think of possible excuses for avoiding a trip to the gym, I remember that I like myself best when my weight is steady and my clothes fit comfortably. Those thoughts usually provide the inspiration to get to the gym, complete my exercise and then spend the the rest of the day feeling self-righteous.
Moving your body and exercising involves an effort. Getting older doesn’t need to mean poor health. Taking care of your body is about lifestyle choices that payoff — with improved confidence. The greatest payoff is a joie de vivre that increases retirement happiness.