Most of us have a vision of retirement that includes activities such as travel, engaging in our favourite hobbies and perhaps the odd round of golf. These activities, and indeed life itself, will be far more enjoyable if we are able to attain the level of fitness and well-being required to enjoy our life choices in retirement.
Research in the past has generally identified significant psychological benefits to be gained from taking simple steps to maintain our health in retirement., but how do people people benefit from proactively maintaining their health through exercise, diet and regular medical check-ups?
proactive health maintenance
There is little doubt that some of us are naturally health conscious and have probably always engaged in activities designed to promote good health. For others it is not that easy.
It is well established that exercise can contribute to lowering levels of stress no matter what your age.
As in the case of exercise advice in the past has varied from replacing animal fats in cooking to not adding salt or sugar to food and drinks. Interestingly, levels of retirement-related depression are usually significantly lower among participants who monitor their diet compared to those who eat whatever they want, when they want it!
No doubt the person, who discovers the switch that motivates all of us to exercise and diet, will become fabulously wealthy overnight. Sometimes the problem lies in the seemingly hopeless task of getting from our present physical condition to that of many kilos lighter. For others, it comes down to food preparation habits built up over a lifetime:
“My mother added salt to the vegetables and so do I, if I stop now there will be a rebellion from my husband.”
Whatever the reason, if you find that you are not naturally inclined to exercise or diet there are a number of steps you can take that may help.
motivating myself to exercise
For those people who are neither naturally athletic nor interested in participating in sport, exercise regimes can be boring at best and intimidating at worst.
If you do not relish the thought of joining a gym, then consider more pleasing activities such as a regular brisk walk through a park or around the block of some tree-lined streets.
Other reluctant exercisers keep themselves honest by pairing up with someone for a half-hour walk at specific times. Knowing that you have to meet someone at a specified time then helps you get out of bed in the morning. The key is to discover what motivates YOU and commit to trying it for a minimum period of time.
motivating myself to diet
The two issues with diet relate to ‘what’ and ‘how much’ – both seemingly easy to handle but for many people very difficult. The problem is that many of us take an all or nothing approach to dieting. Promising never to eat junk food again or to permanently give up salt, sugar and fried food is probably unrealistic unless you have superb will-power or have been catapulted into action by a medical crisis.
It is sometimes easier to start one step at a time. For example, if you have a diet high in salt or sugar, resolve to stop adding them to food and drinks. Once you have become used to not adding salt and sugar, move on to something else such as replacing animal fats like butter with olive oil when cooking and shallow frying food instead of deep-frying if indeed frying is necessary at all.
Apart from what we eat, many of us eat too much. There is a delay between eating and ‘feeling full’ so the temptation can be to continue eating until the feeling of fullness catches up – of course, by this time we have gone too far. Waiting a while before moving on to the next course can help as does drinking water with our food.
motivating myself to have an annual medical check-up
There is plenty of evidence highlighting the benefits to be gained from regular medical check-ups. Stories of how a potentially fatal problem had been discovered early due to a routine check-up and that this had literally saved their lives are fairly common. However, unfortunately, some serious illnesses remain symptom-free during their early stages and without screening, may go on to develop into a problem that is far more difficult to treat.
There are a number of reasons that people give for not having regular medical check-ups. Without symptoms to scare us into action, it is often something that falls into the ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ category. Some people even avoid medical check-ups in case something is found. At a human level this is understandable but it does not stand up to close scrutiny as a valid excuse.
Finally, there is what is generally referred to as the ‘bloke syndrome’. For some reason, men, as a group, tend to be more squeamish when it comes to having medical examinations.