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.
French national gas and electricity company (GAZEL cohort).
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).
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).
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.
The main focus of this article was to examine whether statutory retirement is associated with changes in physical activity.
Especially, we wanted to clarify what happens during the actual retirement transition (ie, the year of retirement ±1 year).
Furthermore, we examined whether there were changes in body weight as a function of preretirement and postretirement physical activity level.
We were able to show that during a 9-year follow-up physical activity increased most during the retirement transition, both in men and women.
Beneficial changes were noticed also among those usually considered as low physical activity groups, such as smokers.
Physically inactive persons were most prone to gain weight during the follow-up.
Strengths and limitations of this study
The main strength of this study was yearly measurements of the outcome, which enabled us to get accurate estimates of physical activity during the actual retirement transition.
Large and stable occupational cohort, prospective study design, accurate register-based data on retirement and long follow-up both preretirement and postretirement were other strengths of this study.
The main limitation was the use of self-report data of the outcome.