Good Life

Investing in a healthy you

When most of us think about investing, we think about setting aside money when we are younger with hopes of financial security as we get older and prepare for retirement. Sacrificing now for future benefit isn’t something that comes easily or naturally to most people, so having compelling reasons to do so is important. Let’s be honest — no one wants to be faced with having to live with grown children because they can’t afford to be independent.

As many people know, good savings strategies are diversified. Using a variety of investment tools — from keeping money in savings accounts to investing in bonds, mutual funds and stocks — will yield different returns.

While a traditional savings account is relatively safe, stocks are riskier but may provide a higher return on investment. The same reasoning holds true for lasting health.

Banking on wellness

Challenge yourself to think not just about your long-term financial picture, but also about what you want your older years to look like from a wellness perspective. Some reasons to consider when making different choices today, in order to be healthier as you get older, include:

  • Not wanting to rely on Medicare to finance potentially preventable health problems in older age
  • Not wanting to live with adult children because you physically can’t take care of yourself and live independently
  • Making healthier choices today can reduce health care costs
  • Making healthier choices produces compound benefits that might help prevent or delay developing chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes, obesity or osteoporosis

A good strategy for investing in long-term health is to start looking specifically at physical activity the way you look at saving for retirement. Remember that just as there are different ways to protect future wealth, so are there different methods of exercise (and diet) to improve future health.

Parking your car farther away from the grocery store or taking an extra spin around the frozen food aisle is like putting money in your savings account — less risk but also less payoff. A daily walk is more like a bond or mutual fund — less risk than some other activities, but with a higher yield or return on investment. In fact, research shows that walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week while making moderate changes in eating, can cut the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in people with pre-diabetes. Since one in four Americans 65 years and older currently have diabetes, why not start walking in your 40s and 50s to help prevent the condition in later years? Foods that are naturally rich in nutrients and low in fat and calories, like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, are a great start to a long-term diet change.

If you are looking for even more return on your investment, consider joining an exercise class or even high-intensity training class with a personal trainer or coach. These activities have been shown to burn more calories and improve cardiovascular fitness. Like stocks, however, these are much riskier and you should always seek professional advice from your health care provider before taking on such strenuous activities.

As a diabetes nurse practitioner and someone living with pre-diabetes, this author hears (and sometimes gives) all kinds of excuses for why there is no time to invest in increasing activity to save for a healthy future. Does “I’m too busy between work, children and other obligations that I don’t have time to walk half-an-hour a day or take a class at the YMCA,” sound familiar?

Think about it like this — if you are saving funds for your retirement, you are working a certain number of hours per week to make a specific amount of cash. Examine how many hours a week it takes you to put away the money you are saving. Now, consider whether you can find just a fraction of that time each week to get more active. You’ll reap the long-term benefits of being much healthier — now and in the future — than you would be without investing in yourself. Happy saving!

Susan Trainor is a certified nurse practitioner in endocrinology at Mount Nittany Physician Group.