The study, led by Dr. Alan Godfrey and published in the journal Age and Ageing, looked at the amount and patterns of time older adults, those aged between 48 and 89, spent ambulatory (walking) and sedentary (sitting/lying). The results show that retired people spent more time walking and less time sedentary than those who were employed.
All 98 study participants wore a small accelerometer on their thigh for a week, allowing the team to analyse how active and inactive they were over that period. There was an increase in activity in retirement but in general time spent walking decreased and time spent sedentary increased in older age groups.
Time spent walking was also considered with respect to public health guidelines which recommend walking approximately 150mins per week in time blocks of 10minutes. Only 21% of all participants reached any of the recommended guidelines and that in general the older age groups were the worst performers.
Before this study little was known about the effects of retirement and age on this form of physical activity as previous methods relied on diaries or estimates of activity (from self-reported time spent inactive) during a person’s daily/weekly schedule.
The findings for this study identify the need for suitable physical activity interventions targeting those in the over 50 age group. This is a key objective of the LiveWell Programme, run by Newcastle University. The Programme aims to develop interventions to aid healthy ageing for those in the ‘retirement window’ that are feasible, effective and cost effective that can be incorporated into everyday life.
Dr Godfrey said: “Retirement may present a critical window for encouraging older people to be more physically active. Family members can obviously help with this period of transition by planning for the future and helping the person set to retire in adopting new or altering old (physical activity) strategies.
“Engaging with community or peer led activity groups (walking clubs, outdoor pursuits etc) would be one simple and effective example of adopting and maintaining any desire to become more active.”
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