For many of us, retirement is a long, long way off. Sure, we contribute to the 401(k)s at our jobs, we squirrel away extra cash into an IRA and we dream of relocating to a sunny, warm locale. But our financial situation should not be the only consideration when we think about retirement: What about our physical health?
According to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal, one of the biggest mistakes people make when planning for retirement is focusing solely on their financial health. Far too few people give any thought to their physical health -- and good physical health is crucial to making the most of later life.
"When you're young and fit, that is the time to put your health and fitness into the bank," Brent Holten says. The WSJ study shows us, "A big nest egg isn't going to do you much good if you can't get off the couch, so the good diet and exercise habits we form today will carry us far, far into the future."
Only 42% of Americans ages 65 to 74 -- and only 28% of those 75 and older -- meet government recommendations for aerobic activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Health Statistics. Worse, only 14% of the first group and just 8% of the second also do the suggested amount of strength training.
As the Journal's article states, exercise isn't just a good idea -- it is critical to your well being, particularly as you age. "People who engage in physical activity have a lower risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some types of cancer, depression, cognitive impairment and functional decline."
If you spend at least 150 minutes each week on moderate-intensity aerobic activity and do some type of muscle-strengthening activities two or more days a week -- congratulations! If not, start with the CDCs Physical Activity pages. It is the single-most-important step you can take as you approach retirement.