“Rock Around the Clock”: Reaping the Benefits of Physical Activity After Retirement

Originally featured August 12, 2023 on Mather Institute
By Jacquelyn Stephens

Many things may change after retirement beyond leaving the workforce. The amount of physical activity one gets is one of these changes. Regular physical activity is essential for older adults, and it is linked with better physical, mental, and cognitive health.  A new longitudinal study published in the journal Preventive Medicine examined how physical activity levels change after retirement, depending on one’s previous occupation.

Study participants were adults over age 50 in the UK. The average age of study participants was 65 years; about half of the sample retired prior to the study and 20% retired during the study period. Researchers discovered that, on average, levels of physical activity increased from before to after retirement, the equivalent of about 18 extra minutes of walking or another form of mild exercise. These results did not change based on gender. However, activity levels of previous employment had a significant effect on this relationship: those who had worked in sedentary or standing jobs saw the greatest increases in physical activity. Those who worked heavy manual labor jobs decreased in physical activity levels after retirement. Analyses accounted for age, marital status, income, self-reported health, physical functioning, and smoking and alcohol usage.


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