Physical Activity, Sedentary Behavior, and Retirement: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis


      Physical activity and sedentary behavior are major risk factors for chronic disease. These behaviors may change at retirement, with implications for health in later life. The study objective was to describe longitudinal patterns of moderate to vigorous and domain-specific physical activity and TV watching by retirement status.


      Participants in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (n=6,814) were recruited from six U.S. communities and were aged 45–84 years at baseline. Retirement status and frequency and duration of domain-specific physical activity (recreational walking, transport walking, non-walking leisure activity, caregiving, household, occupational/volunteer) and TV watching were self-reported at four study exams (2000 to 2012). Fixed effect linear regression models were used to describe longitudinal patterns in physical activity and TV watching by retirement status overall and stratified by socioeconomic position. Analyses were conducted in 2017.


      Of 4,091 Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis participants not retired at baseline, 1,012 (25%) retired during a median of 9 years follow-up. Retirement was associated with a 10% decrease (95% CI= –15%, –5%) in moderate to vigorous physical activity and increases of 13% to 29% in recreational walking, household activity, and TV watching. Among people of low socioeconomic position, the magnitude of association was larger for moderate to vigorous physical activity. Among people of high socioeconomic position, the magnitude of association was larger for non-walking leisure and household activity.


      The retirement transition was associated with changes in physical activity and TV watching. To inform intervention development, future research is needed on the determinants of behavior change after retirement, particularly among individuals of low socioeconomic position.
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