Monday, 24 September 2012

The Importance of Health in Retirement

A 2005 study of retirement on lifestyle choices in relation to weight change, led by Dr Astrid CJ Nooyens, showed that those retiring from active jobs tended to gain more weight than their unretired colleagues. Meanwhile, people leaving less active roles lost more weight. Clearly, when you retire, you need to take some time to re-evaluate your energy intake and exercise program to fit in with your new lifestyle. 

The meaning of “good health” isn’t as straightforward as you might think. Our bodies are in a constant state of flux.  Immediately after you leave the doctors, you could develop a problem that would have been detected ten seconds previously! 

But don’t let this make you anxious – considering how much psychology influences health, anxious is actually the last thing you should let yourself be! Just consistently follow some common sense principles and remember to look left and right before crossing the road.

Here are some very predictable, but absolutely crucial basic health tips to get you started:

First and foremost, don’t underestimate the impact of your mindset on the overall quality of your life. Staying optimistic will have discernable positive physiological effects.

If at first you don’t succeed, quit and quit again... STOP SMOKING! The benefits of quitting are enormous at any age. Some of these are immediate, such as breathing easier, sleeping better and feeling more energetic. And of course we all know that it prolongs your life by reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease. It’s also one of the best things you can do for your sex life!

Watch your booze intake. The stress that comes with retirement can lead to hitting the bottle more than is good for you. Because retires often drink at home, they may not realise how much they put away each week, and this can be disastrous for both your health and your sexual ability. If a woman drinks too much she will become temporarily anorgasmic – but if the man has done the same then this won’t be much of an issue anyway.  

Eating well helps you lose weight much better than starving yourself. Not eating slows down your metabolism, causing you to burn calories slower than in a well-regulated, nutritious eating program.

Find excuses to exercise. Get a dog, or get off the bus several stops earlier than normal and walk home. Seemingly insignificant lifestyle choices like choosing the stairs over the lift soon add up to better health in general. 

∙Remember to consult a health professional before starting any exercise regime if you’ve been out of the game for long. And, in general, make sure you have regular checkups with your doctor. It’s normal to feel scared before medical appointments. Stickers and sweets in surgeries shouldn’t just be for children, because however old you get the anticipation doesn’t get much easier. But the more routinely you go, the less likely they’ll find anything for you to be scared about. Remember that in the majority of cases, even serious things are fixable. 

Finally, as if you needed an excuse, have sex! A Chicago University study found that those who had sex more often in later life rated their health more highly. While they still don’t know whether participants had sex more often because they were healthier, or healthier because they had more sex, the evidence points to a mutually beneficial link. That’s good enough for me!

You can add years to your life with a tiny bit of effort. This doesn’t mean obsessing over diet fads and imagining every blemish is the beginning of the end. Just stay mindful of your own well-being and remember you’re entitled to feel happy as well as healthy. 

As happiness guru, Professor Ed Deiner says: “Current health recommendations focus on four things: avoid obesity, eat right, don’t smoke, and exercise. It may be time to add ‘be happy and avoid chronic anger and depression to the list.’” Wise words, Ed. Leave room for levity in your food and exercise programs. 

Next time I’ll be talking about how to create your perfect retirement picture – your achievable happiness framework.