In a recent study, 81% of retirees say that good health is the most important ingredient for a happy retirement. But when you first retire, and your daily routine changes, knowing how to adopt or even continue a healthy lifestyle can be challenging.
“It’s a shocking lifestyle change whenever we go from what we’re accustomed to into the unknown, like retirement,” says James Waechter, EP, MS, an exercise physiologist and chronic care practice manager in Pittsburgh, PA. “But you just need to take that first, small step, and you’ll be heading down the right path.”
These health and fitness tips will have you enjoying an active retirement in no time.
The first step in adopting a healthy lifestyle is to tweak your mindset. “Think of exercise as a hobby, instead of a chore,” Waechter says. Defining your motivation for being healthy can help. Just as you may take-up knitting because you want to make a scarf, you might start exercising regularly so you’ll be able to run around the yard with your grandchildren.
Waechter also suggests finding an exercise or healthy habit that truly interests you. “It’s essential for that motivation to stay at the forefront,” Waechter says. “If that activity is something that you enjoy, then you are more likely to stay motivated.”
Before beginning any new fitness program, it’s important to consult your primary care physician and specialty physicians to make sure that your body is ready, willing, and able to partake in exercise, according to Waechter. Once you have the green light, figure out what your body can comfortably handle. “Keeping your activity at a manageable level will keep you motivated to continue,” Waechter says. “But you need to start at your own baseline, whatever that may be. And then work from there.” For some, that baseline may be walking around their home for a couple minutes at a time; for others, it may be running three miles.
Highmark Medicare Advantage members automatically get free membership to the Tivity Health SilverSneakers Fitness Program, designed specifically for Medicare beneficiaries. The membership offers:
• Free access to exercise and wellness programs at more than 13,000 locations nationwide
• Fitness classes that are low-impact and designed to improve balance and muscle strength• Access to the SilverSneakers Steps Program
• At-home fitness kits for members who can’t get to a gym
• Senior advisors, who serve as a contact point for information and service
To make a larger, long-term goal attainable, break it into chunks. “Start with one small change and then add to it and add to it until you’re really growing outward from those small behavior changes,” Waechter says.
Need a fitness goal? Waechter recommends working toward meeting the American Heart Association’s recommendations for physical activity. For adults, the goal is two sessions of strength training weekly, and 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, like biking, walking, or swimming.
Good nutrition is a vital component to an active lifestyle. When it comes to healthy eating, moderation is key. “If you embrace moderation, you should be able to maintain most of what you enjoy, like going out, eating with your family, or having that once-in-a-while treat,” says Waechter. “But those treats can become a problem if they’re part of our daily lifestyle.” Waechter also recommends watching fat and cholesterol intake, as well as speaking with your physician to pinpoint what dietary needs your body may require.