Once you've saved prudently throughout your career, you want to stay healthy so you can spend that hard-earned money on the things you've always wanted. Staying fit once you stop working is essential to enjoying your retirement. And since health issues are bound to be a part of your retirement years, it’s important to take steps to prevent as many illnesses as possible. Here are six frugal ways to stay healthy in retirement:
1. Join a gym. The gym isn't just for bodybuilders anymore. If you're the kind of person who needs more motivation than working out at home provides, many gyms offer a variety of exercise classes for seniors. You can do some light cardio on your own with the stationary bicycle or elliptical machine, or if you're feeling bold, go for a run on the treadmill and start a modest weight training regimen. You'll feel an immediate difference in your energy level. Prices vary by location, but some gyms offer senior discounts.
2. Do your own landscaping. Instead of paying through the nose for someone to cut your grass, do it yourself. Even if you do have the money to spend, landscaping your own yard is a great aerobic activity, plus it gets you outdoors. An added benefit is that you can get your lawn looking just the way you want it, instead of relying on someone else. After it's done, invite some friends over for a picnic and show off your work.
3. Start a backyard garden. For additional work outside and to spruce up your yard, consider starting a garden in your backyard. You can grow food organically, and ensure you're always eating the freshest fruits and vegetables, which could help you stay healthy. And the pride that comes with growing your own produce makes you a lot more likely to eat it. In this case, that will do your body—not to mention your credit card bill—a ton of good.
4. Read more. Health and wellness are not skin-deep. Mental health is just as important, and often a sound mind leads to a sound body. One of the best ways to improve and sustain your emotional well-being is by reading more. Whether it's online news, magazines on your iPad, or a good old soft cover novel, if you read frequently, you'll keep your brain stimulated and lower your chance of being affected by dementia.
5. Travel locally. Although a trip to the other side of the world may be on your bucket list, it may not be in your bank account. But don't let that stop you from exploring. Check out your state's tourism website to find hidden gems right in your own backyard. The Sierra Club website also offers outings for people of all ages, including seniors, many of which are free and do not require a club membership.
6. Volunteer. Volunteer opportunities abound for senior citizens, and many choose to work after retirement. Check Craigslist, local libraries, museums, nursing home bulletin boards, or local animal shelters. Even if it's not a paid position, you'll be getting out of the house, doing something productive, and hopefully making new friends. If you miss the social interaction and daily schedule that come with a working life, this may be the solution for you.
Though an active retirement is something to strive for, don't overdo it. Retirees often feel that unless they're perpetually on the run, time will catch up with them. The key to a good retirement is to achieve a healthy balance. Remain active, but understand your limitations. Don't break a hip climbing a mountain, or hurt your back cliff-diving. You can benefit by remaining active, but only if you approach it wisely and cautiously.
David Bakke is a contributor for MoneyCrashers.com, where he discusses a variety of financial topics related to retirement, investing, and healthy living.