Objectives: To examine the trajectories of physical activity from preretirement to postretirement and to further clarify whether the changes in physical activity are associated with changes in body weight.
Setting: French national gas and electricity company (GAZEL cohort).
Participants: From the original sample of 20 625 employees, only those retiring between 2001 and 2008 on a statutory basis were selected for the analyses (analysis 1: n=2711, 63% men; analysis 2: n=3812, 75% men). Persons with data on at least one preretirement and postretirement measurement of the outcome were selected.
Primary and secondary outcome measures: All outcome data were gathered by questionnaires. In analysis 1, the annual prevalence of higher physical activity (walking ≥5 km/week) 4 years before and after retirement was analysed. In analysis 2, changes in leisure-time sport activities (engagement, frequency and manner) from preretirement to postretirement were analysed with simultaneous changes in body weight (kilogram).
Results: In analysis 1 (n=2711), prevalence estimates for 4 years before and 4 years after retirement showed that higher leisure-time physical activity (walking at least 5 km/week) increased by 36% in men and 61% in women during the transition to retirement. This increase was also observed among people at a higher risk of physical inactivity, such as smokers and those with elevated depressive symptoms. In a separate sample (analysis 2, n=3812), change in weight as a function of preretirement and postretirement physical activity was analysed. Weight gain preretirement to postretirement was 0.85 (95% CI 0.48 to 1.21) to 1.35 (0.79 to 1.90) kg greater among physically inactive persons (decrease in activity or inactive) compared with those physically active (p<0.001).
Conclusions: Retirement transition may be associated with beneficial changes in lifestyle and may thus be a good starting point to preventive interventions in various groups of individuals in order to maintain long-term changes.