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Categories: aging

benchMost of us look forward to wrapping up a lifetime of work with a period of comfortable retirement. The problem is if retirement is too retiring it can lead to a serious decline in health. Research shows that although walking away from the workplace may initially reduce stress, it also significantly increases the chances of depression, physical illness, and the need for medication, while reducing overall health. And the longer one is in retirement the more the risks increase.

This doesn’t seem fair at all.  Why is it so?

It turns out the body and brain need regular activity and social interaction to stay healthy, and retirement deprives some people of those necessary influences.

Retirees Should Stay Socially Active

Regular social interaction is strongly correlated with physical and mental health and overall vitality and regular social activity has been shown to prevent dementia.  By contrast, social isolation has the same health risks as smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.

Let’s face it, even if we’re just keeping up with the office politics, during the work week many of us get a big chunk of our social interaction at the office.  The sudden loss of these built-in social contacts can launch people into loneliness and depression.  Unless retirees are proactive about being in touch with others, many end up keeping company with the television. The loss of a spouse through divorce or death further increases this risk. 

Tip: Prepare for retirement by investing in friendships outside the workplace.

Retirees Should Stay Physically Active

Another risk of retirement is a sudden decrease of physical activity. Even folks who work sedentary jobs are at least getting themselves to and from work, attending meetings, and perhaps walking to lunch with coworkers.

Too often retirees allow themselves to be confined within the limits of the home.  Yet when it comes to preventing disease and dementia, and slowing the aging process, exercise is a magic bullet. Although a combination of strength training and high-intensity interval training are ideal ways to prevent disease and dementia, simply going for a walk every day is also highly preventive.

Tip: Prepare for retirement by connecting with outdoor activities.

Retirees Should Stay Mentally Active

The brain is like a muscle—use it or you lose it. Regular mental stimulation is vital to keeping the brain healthy and active, which helps lower the risk of depression, illness, and dementia. Working keeps the brain regularly engaged, especially if the job places higher demands on thinking skills. In retirement many are susceptible to spending days in front of the television, which does not stimulate the mind like reading, learning new things, and doing crossword puzzles and other games.

Tip: Prepare for retirement by learning new things and rediscovering play.

Stay Active to Stay Healthy in Retirement

After years spent in the workplace, it is reasonable to look forward to retirement as a period of time to reflect and enjoy what life has to offer.  However, unless we take charge of our retirement it can be a period of rapid decline. 

The key to staying healthy after retirement is to maintain a lifestyle that includes regular physical activity, mental stimulation, and social activity. Volunteering, learning something new, setting new goals and challenges for ourselves are ways ensure that the time we’ve set aside for ourselves at the end of life is high-quality time.  We owe it to ourselves to stay active.

Contact our office at 612.223.8590 for more ideas to support your health.