Women are at high risk of becoming much less active right after they retire, researchers find.
Inactivity was tracked among nearly 700 participants in an ongoing study of retiring municipal workers in Finland that began in 2013. Most (85%) of the participants were women, with an average retirement age of 63.
Among women, inactivity levels didn't change much before retirement, but increased steeply at retirement and then leveled off.
Women's daily total sedentary time increased by 22 minutes a day immediately after they retired, prolonged sedentary time rose by 34 minutes a day, and highly prolonged sedentary time rose by 15 minutes a day.
Prolonged sedentary time is 30 minutes or more of inactivity at a time, while highly prolonged sedentary time is 60 minutes or more of inactivity at a time.
"Our results extend previous knowledge by showing that previously observed higher daily total sedentary time after retirement concerns particularly prolonged sedentary time, which is more harmful for health compared with short sedentary bouts," study author Kristin Suorsa, from the Department of Public Health at the University of Turku in Finland, and colleagues wrote.
The increases in total and prolonged sedentary time were highest among women who'd retired from manual labor jobs. These changes persisted two or more years after retirement.
Among men, daily total sedentary time and prolonged/highly prolonged sedentary time increased in the year before retirement by 21, 23 and 11 minutes, respectively, but there were no statistically significant changes at the time of retirement.
However, men had an overall increase in prolonged sedentary time of 33 minutes a day two years after retirement.
Men had significantly more daily total and prolonged sedentary time than women at all time points, according to the study, published online Nov. 16 in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine.
An inactive lifestyle is associated with an increased risk of health problems and death.
"Since an increase in prolonged sedentary behavior increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality dose dependently, retirees should be encouraged to break up sedentary activities," the researchers concluded in a journal news release.
The U.S. National Institute on Aging offers advice on physical activity and exercise.
SOURCE: Occupational & Environmental Medicine, news release, Nov. 16, 2020