A new study published in the Journal of Preventative Medicine has associated retirement with positive lifestyle changes. The University of Sydney researchers claimed retirees had increased physical activity levels, reduced their sitting time, and were less likely to smoke and sleep better.

Lead researcher Dr. Melody Ding, a Senior Research Fellow at the University’s School of Public Health, explains that retirement provided an opportunity to practice healthier lifestyle behaviours. Ding adds that workers do not have enough time to pursue healthier lifestyles when working and commuting already consumes too much time out of their day.

The study involved observing 25,000 older Australians’ diet, sedentary practices, physical activity, sleep patterns and alcohol consumption. The research team have taken the retirees’ age, sex, urban or rural residence, marital status and educational background.

Retired senior couple walking alone on a tropical beach. Photo from Expert Beacon

Retired senior couple walking alone on a tropical beach. Photo from Expert Beacon

They found out that retirees increased their physical activity by up to 93 minutes weekly and reduced their sitting time by up to 67 minutes a day. Moreover, retirees also sleep better, increasing their sleep to up to 11 minutes each day and 50 percent of female retirees who smoke stopped smoking.

The researchers did not find any relationship between retirement and alcohol, fruit or vegetable intake. People who have higher educational backgrounds and lived in urban areas experienced the highest decrease in sedentary time.

Ding says the study was conducted in part of her mother’s negative feelings about retirement. Ding wanted her mother to learn about the positive consequences of retirement.

“We hope this information could translate to better health in older Australians, preventing cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Retirement is a good time for doctors to talk their patients about making positive lifestyle changes that could add years to their life,” Ding says. “The findings suggest that both health professionals and policy makers should consider developing special programs for retirees to capitalise on the health transitions through retirement.”