How to Save Your Retirement: The Importance of Staying Active Physically and Mentally
By Scott Gese

Retirement. You've worked hard all your life and now you’re finally at the door. Now is not the time to screw things up. If you expect to enjoy a long and healthy retirement you need to be proactive. You need to work at saving your retirement before you lose it.

Save yourself and your retirementMaarten van den Heuvel / Unsplash

What do I mean by that?

There are certain things you have to do. There’s no getting around the fact that you need to stay active in both your body and your mind. If you don’t, you’ll most likely end up with a shitty ending to your shortened retirement years. You don’t want that. Nobody does.

I’ve seen the tragedy of a Healthy retirement cut short.

One of my wife’s Uncles had a very sharp mind. His body let him down and he spent his final years confined to his house strapped to an oxygen tank. He was forced to “retire” from his retirement. Even though he had good brain health, he passed away at a relatively young age. His body let him down.

I had an Uncle who was very fit. His mind began to slip when he was only in his sixties. He spent his whole retirement in a care facility doing little more than staring at a television set until he passed away due to poor brain health.

If you don’t take care of yourself both physically and mentally, you could end up just like these people I know. This is not the retirement you or anyone else was meant to have.

I know most of us have heard it a thousand times. Exercise, exercise, exercise. Keep those muscles moving. You have to. After the age of 40 we lose muscle mass yearly.

Even if your current exercise routine consists of nothing more than a long brisk walk every day, you’re moving in the right direction. Walking is one of the best things you can do for yourself as far as low impact physical exercise goes. If you don’t take care of yourself at some point your body will rebel.

Here’s an analogy for you. If you knew the tires on your car were slowly deflating wouldn’t it make sense to keep giving them the air they needed to get you on down the road? Better yet, wouldn’t you do something about repairing them.

Chips and sodas on the couch each day is not the fuel your body needs to stay in shape or keep your muscles from losing mass. It’s empty calories that turn into fat (not muscle). Add a sedentary lifestyle to your shitty eating habits and you’ve created a scenario for bad body and brain health. It's a recipe for disaster. It may take awhile but it’s inevitable.

And what about your brain. It needs to be exercised as well.

Your brain is the largest muscle in your body. You need to keep it in shape just like any other muscle in your body. Your brain health is just as important as your body health. Use it or lose it, as the saying goes.

There are a multitude of ways to exercise your brain in order to keep it active and sharp. Exercising your brain is an important way to keep your healthy  retirement.

For example I write both short story fiction in multiple genres as well as non fiction articles. Writing fiction keeps my mind active and the research I do for the articles I write gives my brain a good workout.

I’ve recently added another exercise to keep my brain active and in shape. I’ve started to teach myself a second language. Second language learning encourages neuroplasticity and cognitive skills.

What is neuroplasticity?

Our brains are made up of cells called neurons. An average brain has between 80 and 100 billion of these little guys. They connect and communicate with each other. Second language learning encourages the process of creating and strengthening new neurons and new neural connections. These new cells and connections make our brains gray matter denser which is an indicator of a healthier brain. These new connections are used to deliver messages to various parts of the body. If you don’t encourage and strengthen your neural connections they will begin to deteriorate. Like I mentioned earlier, use it or lose it. I meant that quite literally.

Second language learning skills help with memory and attention.

I love to travel and my go to place is Central America. I don’t know the language. As a tourist it is possible to get by without knowing the native language, but sometimes it can be frustrating. So I’ve decided it’s time to teach myself a second language. I'm now learning Spanish. At my age, learning something this difficult (for me) isn’t as easy as it used to be but I’m sticking with it. It will improve my memory and retention. By learning a second language my retirement years will be improved in more ways than one.

If you’ve never thought of taking on the task of second language learning, you should. There are many good online sites that will teach you a multitude of languages. Take your pick between French, German, Spanish, Hawaiian and even Navajo. Find one you’re comfortable with and give it a try.

The program I’m currently using is called Duolingo. It’s free and you can choose between 38 different languages.

Check it out here

There is a paid version which gives you a few extra benefits but its not necessary.

Second language learning may not be for you. That's OK. Find another activity that keeps your brain in motion.

Keeping your body and brain health in top condition is an excellent way give yourself a healthy retirement.

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