Retirement and fitness

Maybe this is the year you throw out your alarm clock for good. Seem like a good idea? Retirement gives some people the willies, and others can't wait.

For those of you who are getting gold watches this year, you do have to find some way to fill your free hours. Dramatic changes in lifestyle often cause stress as well as nutritional and physical changes. Foods that you prepared for years no longer seem necessary, and the little activity you achieved by work related movements is lost overnight.

It is a dramatic change and anyone who has not been through this step in life cannot perceive the body changes it facilitates. Lots of stories abound regarding retirement; those stories about friends and co-workers who die shortly following retirement. We tend to blame the act of retirement itself for any body deterioration. But medical facts show there is no scientific evidence to link retirement with a shorter lifespan. In fact, a lot of people retire because of ill health or disabilities. If you think about it, you can recall co-workers who have had health problems when they picked up their final paycheck.

Those people who go into their "free" years healthy and have spent the time and energy to keep up the body machine will have many more exciting and useful years to enjoy.

You also have to deal with the emotional trauma of no longer feeling useful. It's a hard step but, with a little preplanning, you can jump right off into a busy lifestyle - just in a different direction. When you have worked at the same occupation for 20-plus years, your "mental" needs a bit of a boost anyway. If you're looking for a challenge, go back to college, or take up a musical instrument -if your family can stand it.

On to the physical aspects of retirement. When the work day has ceased to exist, so does the structure behind the early morning run or the noon time fitness class. Not only are you losing the health benefits of exercise, you also lose your friendly support group. Social interactions centering around physical fitness are important. How many of you who are exercising would do it if you had no one to commiserate with? A sore muscle needs discussing and adding one more push-up is no fun if you can't brag about it.

Don't give up any of your structured fitness time when you throw away that alarm clock. Don't give up your good health habits whether they pertain to food or exercise. And along with that alarm clock, throw out the misconception that you are over the hill and on a down slide to oblivion when you cease to hit the work trail.

While you are still reasonably young, take care of that body machine so you can kick up your heels when you finally reach retirement. There's a lot of life to be lived following age 65, and retirement ranks are growing dramatically. More and more people are making lifestyle changes that enhance the length of life and make it more enjoyable. Plan to be one of them!

Jerry Vance is certified by the American Council on Exercise and teaches fitness at the Carson City Community Center and for the American Lung Association.

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