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You’re Retired, Now Let’s Get Fit! Thumbnail

You’re Retired, Now Let’s Get Fit!

I try to encourage seniors to think about retirement as a beginning, not an end. That means it's never too late to dive into activities that you set aside for "someday" or never quite found time for when you were busy working and raising your family.

And that definitely includes your health. I learned from my own personal fitness journey that if you set goals and commit to them, you'll be amazed what you can accomplish at any age.

Try this quick three-step process to clear some mental, emotional, and financial hurdles that could be standing between you and a healthier retirement.

1. Recognize the benefits. 

Many seniors who've never exercised regularly may be worried that if they start now, they're just going to hurt themselves. In fact, you're much more likely to do long-term damage if you spend retirement on the couch, especially once you identify appropriate exercises and goals -- as I'll talk about in Point 2!

If you're stuck worrying about potential injuries, focus instead on some of the known benefits of exercise. A recent study by the European Heart Journal found that seniors who had a "higher frequency of moderate to vigorous physical activity" significantly reduced their risks of cardiovascular disease. Scientists have also found that a combination of exercise, healthy diet, and regular mental stimulation can improve the neural pathways in our brains and reduce the risk of mental decline. The National Council on Aging reports that the benefits of exercise for adults 60 and older include better bone density, mobility, immune system health, and mood. And just taking a daily walk can have a bigger impact on your health than you probably realize.

A great place for retirees to start building a new exercise routine is the preventative services and check-ups included in Medicare. Once you and your doctor have established a baseline for your health, you can talk about changes to your diet and activity level that could help you enjoy your retirement more.

2. Set attainable goals. 

If you've never played sports or had a regular exercise routine before, you probably won’t be able to run a marathon in six months. Worse, by setting a goal that's not realistic for where you are on your fitness journey, you're just going to get frustrated when that brass ring never gets any closer.

So instead of setting unrealistic goals, try setting a SMART goal: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

If a senior who’s new to exercise ran that marathon goal through the SMART system, it probably fails at Achievable.

So, let's try another purely hypothetical example to show the SMART system in action.

What about a 5K charity fun run at your grandkids' school next spring?

Check! That's a Specific goal.

Now let's make it Measurable. You might start by adding a pedometer app to your phone or smart watch and try to walk 10,000 steps every day. Maybe after a week or two of hitting that goal, you move on to walking a mile every morning, and then jogging a half mile.

Stick with that routine, and a 5K fun run will probably be Achievable in a few months.

That goal will be Relevant because it's combining two important retirement goals: getting healthier and spending more time with your family.

And it's a Time-Bound goal because you know when you have to be on the starting line.

Again, this is just a hypothetical example of how setting SMART goals could help someone take their first steps towards better health. Make sure you run any new exercise routine past your doctor, especially if it's been a while since your last walk around the block. Also consider working with a personal trainer who can help you tailor a plan to your unique goals.

3. Stay motivated!

No matter how SMART your goals are, there will be days when you just don't feel like rolling out of bed for that morning walk. You might hear a little voice in the back of your head whispering, "You're retired! Isn't taking it easy the whole point?"

That voice does have a point. If you've been dreaming of an "endless weekend" version of retirement, well, you've earned it! But there's a pretty good chance your "endless weekend" will end a lot sooner than you're expecting if you don't invest in your health. And while none of us are guaranteed tomorrow, sleeping too much and puttering around the house all day certainly won't help your odds of enjoying a long, fulfilling retirement.

Establishing a network of accountability can be a great way to silence that nagging voice and help you hit the ground running every day. The support and encouragement of my family and my trainers certainly helped me stick to my exercise and diet goals on those days when I just wasn't feeling it. Some folks find they’re more likely to follow through on fitness goals if they sign up for classes or a gym membership because they won't want to waste their money. You could also try exercising with a friend or family member who will bang on your door whether you're excited for a walk or not.

And, perhaps most importantly, reward yourself when you hit milestones. Celebrate that first mile you walk with a (small!) scoop of ice cream. Take your spouse out to dinner to mark your first month of continuous exercise. And if you do slip up once or twice and fall behind schedule, pat yourself on the back for getting back on track tomorrow.

A better wellness routine in retirement won’t just be good for your mind and body – it could be good for your money. Set up a meeting at Keen Wealth and we can talk about how our comprehensive planning process could help you prepare for health care challenges as you age and reach your retirement goals.

About Bill

Bill Keen is a financial advisor with nearly 30 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he focuses on providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to Forbes, U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.

KWMG, LLC’s dba Keen Wealth Advisors (“company”) is an SEC Registered Investment Advisor located in Overland Park, KS. The company and its representatives may only conduct business in those states where registered or where excluded/exempt or from licensure. For registration information please contact the SEC or the state securities regulators for the states where the company is notice filed. A copy of the company ADV is available upon request. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where the company and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure. No advice may be rendered by the company unless a client service agreement is in place. This information is not intended to be investment advice or construed as a recommendation or endorsement of any particular investment or investment strategy and is for illustrative purposes only. Clients and prospective clients must consider all relevant risk factors involved with each strategy, including costs or fees, and their own personal financial situations before trading.

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