Retirement is a phase that most of us will experience. But should we just ride off into the sunset and accept retirement as a phase we all have to live with? In a study of Shell Oil employees it was found that people that retired at 55 and lived to be 65 died 37% sooner than those that retired at 65. They also found that people who retired at age 55 were 89% more likely to die within 10 years than those that retired at 65. Social Security data noted the trend, as well. Men that retire at 62 had a 20% higher likelihood of death than the general population.

Even the type of job you had before retirement played a role in how long you lived after retirement. One study found that groups who retired at age 65 from lower status jobs were more likely to die within three years of retirement. People with higher status jobs lasted longer after retirement. A larger percentage of those with higher status jobs who retire at 65 were college-educated. Studies have also found that the lower the income and educational level, the higher the retirees’ mortality rate.

Another issue that affected retirement was how important the job was to the retiree. Retirees that found their identity through their job found it harder to adjust to retire. Some retirees felt lost, unsure of who they are or what they should be spending their time on. These feelings can lead to inactivity, increased alcohol consumption and depression. Working longer seems to reduce the likelihood of early death. Healthy workers that continued to work until they were 66 had an 11% reduced mortality risk. Even retirees with health conditions that worked until they were 66 still had a 9% reduced mortality risk. These studies are not implying that you will die soon after you retire. If you retire at 65, you have a 76% chance of living 10 more years, a 38% chance of living 20 more years and a 5% chance of living another 30 years. The life expectancy for men in the United States is 78.54 years. Women tend to live longer than men generally and have a life expectancy of 81.1 years. Not everyone will die soon after retirement.

There are a number of things you can do to maintain good health during retirement.

Eat a healthy diet

Maintain a healthy weight and reduce body fat

Exercise regularly

Don’t smoke or hang out with people that do smoke

Don’t drink

Reduce your stress level

Enjoy your family and friends

Plan meaningful tasks like travel, hobbies and volunteering

Plan your day

Get eight hours of sleep

Have regular health check-ups with your doctor

Check for depression

Retirement does not mean that you have to become weak and suffer from age-related changes that tend to affect older people. Several studies show that resistance-training exercises help maintain and increase muscle strength and size as we age. When muscle biopsies of men over 50 who lifted weights were compared with those of 20-year-old men, the biopsies looked the same. When biopsies of men over 50 who did not exercise were compared with those of the same 20-year-old men their biopsies showed typical age-related changes.

A complete workout should include exercises for each body part. This will include the chest, shoulders, triceps, back, biceps, forearm, thighs, calves and your abdominals (midsection). Start with 2 or 3 different exercises for each body part. Gradually work up to 8-12 repetitions for each exercise. If you can do more than 12 reps with a weight the weight is too light. If you can’t do 8 reps with a weight the weight is too heavy. Do each exercise 1-3 times to start.

We strongly recommend that you have a professional show you what to include in your routine and that you get an OK from your physician before you start. If you have chronic conditions such as, congestive heart failure, hypertension, arrhythmias, angina or diabetes they must be stable before starting an exercise program.

There’s no mythical fountain of youth to stop the aging process after retirement. Aging starts at birth. Good nutrition play a tremendous role in helping us age gracefully. Many ailments or physical problems associated with aging are due in part to poor nutritional habits. After retirement your body still needs carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber and water to be healthy. Without proper nutrition and exercise, optimal health cannot be attained. Carbohydrates, fats and protein supply energy (calories) necessary for work and normal body functions. Vitamins, minerals, fiber and water do not have caloric value but are still necessary for normal body functions. Most nutritional needs of the older person are similar to those of their younger counterpart. Make sure you get in enough calcium, B vitamins and iron through a balanced diet. Keep a food diary for two weeks to determine what you need to add to your diet. An active person needs about 10 to 13 calories for every pound of body weight. You should eat 4 to 5 small meals that include fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat proteins.

My advice is to work as long as you are enjoying work. When it’s time to retire plan the eight hours you worked with eight hours of something that you that’s meaningful.

If you have a fitness question or concern, write to “Tips to be Fit,” PO Box 53443, Philadelphia, PA 19105 or send an email to tipstobefit@gmail.com. Past articles can be found at www.phillytrib.com by searching “Tips to be Fit.”

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