According to a recent medical study, two simple steps can lead to a longer and better-quality retirement. The first step is to lose weight if you are currently overweight. The second is to take good care of your knees.
The study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that obesity and knee osteoarthritis can cut life duration by about 12% on average. Clearly there’s a link between the two: carrying excess body weight puts more wear and tear on your knees. So logically, losing weight means less strain on your knees (not to mention many other potential benefits of losing weight, such as lower heart disease, fewer cases of diabetes, and fewer knee replacements).
The sad news is, to quote the comic character Pogo, “we have met the enemy, and he is us.” This study found that about 40% of the estimated 86 million Americans in the 50 to 84 age range are obese, have knee osteoarthritis, or both! Not only can those conditions make you feel bad physically and/or emotionally, but they can also reduce your quality of life—and your life expectancy. Imagine not being able to enjoy the simple pleasure of a walk through the woods in the fall, or a walk along a beach in the summer.
The study looked at “quality-adjusted life-years” (how good or bad a year of life “feels,” based on your health) and found that knee osteoarthritis and/or obesity can cut your quality-of-life years by 10 to 25%. And obesity and knee osteoarthritis are among the most frequent chronic conditions affecting Americans aged 50 to 84 years.
So, what can you do now, to better prepare your body for a high-quality retirement? If you are overweight, join a health club, the YMCA or a weight-loss club, and sign up for weight-loss classes. Having other folks around you with the same goal will help you stay on track, and having a “coach” at your health facility can help keep you accountable. If your employer offers a wellness program, check into it for weight-loss programs. Losing weight may even lead to a lower health insurance premium through your work.
But ultimately remember the goal of this article—a better quality of life in retirement. If you plan to be active at all in your retirement years (with travel, grandkids, etc.), being in shape with a healthy set of knees means more options and a better overall quality of life. If nothing else, think of this as just one less set of potential aches and pains to deal with in the aging process. Maintaining a healthy weight will benefit your loved ones also, as you’ll be better able to take care of yourself, rather than relying on a spouse or adult children to assist you with getting around.