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  • Nate Carter

Healthy Habits for Reducing Health Care Expenses

New Year's is the time for health and financial resolutions. When it comes to health, good habits can mean cost savings. According to Fidelity the average retired couple age 65 in 2022 may need $315,000 to cover health care expenses in retirement. That is a hefty sum and early retirees with longer timelines need to save even more for these costs.

Personally, I prefer to spend savings on hobbies and activities, not health care. With that in mind, the best way to reduce these future expenses is through a healthy lifestyle. It is never too late to get started, I am inspired by older retirees knocking out pull ups like they are in their 20s. The steps below will help plan for a healthier and less expensive retirement.

Physical Health Supports Mental Health

Numerous studies have linked the relationship between regular exercise and a healthy diet to positive mental health benefits. A positive mental outlook can reduce the risk of strokes, heart attacks, and inflammation levels in the body. Similarly negative mental health can lead to chronic pain, cancer, and heart disease. Consistent exercise can help promote mental wellbeing to avoid some of these illnesses and their associated expenses. Simply put, a healthy lifestyle is the best way to reduce future health care costs and stretch a retirement budget.

Creating Positive Habits: Sleep + Healthy Eating + Exercise

The prescription for obtaining positive health benefits requires creating habits in three areas, adequate sleep, regular exercise, and eating well. Focusing on just one or two areas will not maximize results. Sleeping eight to nine hours every night and going to sleep at the same time each night creates a positive sleep habit.

A diet emphasizing fresh foods, vegetables and adequate protein, while avoiding processed foods, salt, and sugar supports nutrition goals. Eating food at home instead of at restaurants is an effective way to lower food costs while also improving eating habits. Implementing a habit of daily exercise helps maintain a healthy weight, improve physical health, and positive mental wellbeing.

Exercise Elements: Strength, Conditioning, and Flexibility

An exercise plan needs three elements, strength training, conditioning and flexibility. Activities should target one or more of these elements to ensure that all three are covered. A weekly routine that includes lifting weights (strength) hiking, swimming, or running (conditioning) and yoga or stretching (improve flexibility). Increasing flexibility and maintaining muscle also reduces the likelihood of injury as bodies age. This diversity of workouts also keeps exercise routines from becoming monotonous. Many gyms offer classes that support all three elements while also creating a sense of community.

Avoid Common Traps

When it comes to maintaining good health and exercise, avoid the common traps. There are many people who go to a gym, but do not exercise. They move slowly from machine to machine, barely going through the motions. They do not have a purpose for their exercising, they are not focused on which of the three elements they are trying to improve during this session.

These folks also tend to stare at their phone far more than they exercise. Sitting on equipment they are not using, also annoys others gym goers. Several months will pass and these people look exactly the same, their physical health shows no improvement. The best way to avoid this trap is to leave phones in the car when exercising.

Stay Focused and Measure Results

The expression, "what gets measured gets done" applies to exercise and healthy living. Keeping a record of exercises and documenting results ensures avoiding the traps described above. Seeing results also creates a positive feedback loop, as the amount of weight lifted increases and there is a corresponding improvement in strength and physical appearance. A person is more driven to go to exercise as they reach higher and higher performance levels. Keeping a balance of the three components of proper sleep, healthy diet, and regular exercise is the fastest way to improve results.

Start Smart When Exercising

It is wise to check with a doctor before embarking on any new exercise regime. Start simple with basic exercise and build up to diversify weekly workouts. If new to exercising, consider hiring a fit personal trainer to learn proper techniques to reduce injuries. Developing the mindset that healthy habits lead to lower health costs is a strong motivator, think of the more exciting ways to spend these health care savings. For more details on creating a plan for financial freedom and a healthy early retirement see Become Loaded for Life.

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