Retirement and physical activity: analyses by occupation and wealth

Am J Prev Med. 2009 May;36(5):422-8. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2009.01.026. Epub 2009 Mar 6.


Background: Older adults close to retirement age show the lowest level of physical activity. Changes in lifestyle with retirement may alter physical activity levels. This study investigated whether retirement changes physical activity and how the effect differs by occupation type and wealth level.

Methods: This longitudinal study used the Health and Retirement Study (1996-2002), U.S. population-based data. Analyses were conducted in 2007 and 2008. Physical activity was measured by a composite indicator of participation in either work-related or leisure-time physical activity. Fixed-effects regression models were used to account for confounders and unobserved heterogeneity. The dependent variable was a composite indicator of participation in regular physical activity either at work or during nonworking hours.

Results: Physical activity decreased with retirement from a physically demanding job but increased with retirement from a sedentary job. Occupation type interacted with wealth level, with the negative impact on physical activity of retirement exacerbated by lack of wealth and the positive effect of retirement on physical activity enhanced by wealth.

Conclusions: Substantial differences in the effect of retirement on physical activity occurred across subgroups. As the number of people approaching retirement age rapidly increases, findings suggest that a growing segment of the nation's population may not sustain an adequate level of physical activity.

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Income*
  • Life Style
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity*
  • Occupations*
  • Retirement*
  • United States