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Retirement lifestyle

June 08, 2018

4 ways to stay happy and healthy in retirement

You may be surprised to learn that retirement can be hazardous to your health. But resetting just a few habits can help you keep well.

It’s no secret that retirement changes your life. Even if you’re shifting to a part-time career or becoming a consultant, your schedule will never be the same. Retirement could chip away at those healthy habits you’ve worked so long to develop. Or it could give you the chance to make some new ones.

“Anything can be used as an opportunity to embrace health and wellness, and anything can be used as an excuse,” says Kathleen Trotter. She’s a Toronto-based personal trainer and author of Finding Your Fit. “You have the opportunity to make the next 20 to 40 years the best ones you’ve ever had.”

Retirement is a watershed moment. Try these four tips to seize the moment and build healthy physical and financial habits:

1. Get moving during the day

Without that active commute or those lunchtime walks, you could find yourself becoming increasingly sedentary. Research shows that while new retirees initially reported having more time for leisure-time physical activity, their activity levels eventually tapered off.

Instead of letting that happen, make movement a habit. Use a fitness tracker to reach your step target. Try a mock commute: Start and end your day with a brisk walk or bike ride. Take your dog for an extra walk every day. Baby-sit the grandkids.

2. Develop a new routine

If you’ve built your exercise routine around your work day, sticking with it post-retirement could be tricky. Look for new anchors to build your routine around.

“If you know you’re a person who is really good with structure, you have to set yourself up with structure,” says Trotter. “So much of fitness is setting yourself up for success. So look at your schedule and think about what the new touchstones in your life will be.”

You could plan your workouts around mealtimes, volunteering commitments or family activities. If you need a nudge, sign up for a class or sports league with a set schedule to follow.

3. Be mindful about mealtimes

Take stock of your eating habits.

“With awareness brings choice,” says Trotter. “In order to create healthy habits, you have to know where you’re starting.” Keep a food diary for a week so you can identify less-than-healthy habits (like settling for tea and toast for lunch) and make a plan.

Rather than relying on convenience foods, try scheduling weekly meal preparation. Or opt into a healthy meal delivery service so you always have food (almost) ready to eat, suggests Trotter.

Instead of skipping meals, work breakfast into your new morning ritual, and plan family time around meals together.

4. Talk to an advisor

Money-related stress can affect your heart, blood sugar and more.

To help avoid that stress, meet with an advisor to prepare for your transition into retirement.

“Knowledge is power,” says Matt Wilhelm, a Sun Life Financial advisor in Kitchener, Ontario. “The more knowledge you have about what your retirement income will look like, the more secure you’ll feel in starting that journey.”

Advisors look at your assets and use conservative estimates to forecast what you have to live on. They’ll create a retirement plan that gives you options. And they’ll check in regularly to adjust your plan as needed.

What does your perfect retirement look like? Taking a long, leisurely bike trip across Europe? Joining a softball league? Or simply keeping up with the grandkids? Whatever your vision, you’ll need to stay healthy and vital to follow your retirement dreams — wherever they lead.

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