The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Retiring Soon? Skip the Rocker.

Posted in
Move more

Monday, Apr 20, 2009

For many people, thinking about retirement brings visions of relaxation, sleeping in, and perhaps, gently rocking on the front porch while people who are still working hustle by.  Few retirees foresee a growing girth as another retirement outcome but that is what is in store for many  – but not all – retirees. 

Just who  are we talking about? 

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, have identified that those who retired from physically demanding jobs and with lower wealth were at greatest risk of gaining weight1 and decreasing physical activity level2.   Unfortunately, the double whammy of increased weight and low activity adds significantly to these people’s already elevated risk of health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and high blood pressure.  This may result in disproportionately adverse health outcomes compared to other population groups and should be a wake-up call for all who work in public health.

What about people retiring from sedentary jobs or who have a higher income?  According to these studies, little weight gain and for those who have a higher level of wealth, an actual increase in physical activity level.

An interesting hypothesis from these two studies is that it is not lack of time – the number one reason people give for not exercising – but possibly lack of access to physical activity resources or opportunities that contributes to physical inactivity and weight gain among retirees. 

So if you or a loved one are approaching or in your early retirement years,

  • Balance your calories eaten with your calories burned to prevent weight gain during this critical time.  The Stand Up and Eat website offers many resources and tools to help you stay in calorie balance.
  • Weigh yourself regularly to keep tabs on any pounds that creep in.  Modify your diet and activity accordingly.
  • Take up a physically active hobby or two (dancing, dog walking, gardening, etc.) that you can carry well into retirement.
  • Work with your local community to improve the walkability of your neighborhood and surrounding environment.

What will you do in retirement to stave off the retirement paunch and inactivity?

1 Chung S, Domino ME, and Stearns SC.  The Effect of Retirement on Weight.  J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2009 Apr 16. E-published ahead of print.  Downloaded on April 20, 2009.

2 Chung S, Domino ME, Stearns SC, and Popkin BM.  Retirement and physical activity: Analyses by occupation and wealth.  American Journal of Preventive Medicine.  2009;35(5):422-428.