Latest news: 26 November 2015.
Upon his retirement, Allan Wareham hit the ground running ‒ marathon running that is.
The 76-year-old, who is one of 267,000 participants of the 45 and Up Study, retired in 1996 and decided it was the ideal time to take his fitness seriously.
A member of Sydney Striders running club, he now runs up to five days a week and this year alone has completed nine half-marathons, with his hobby taking him around the country and to New Zealand where he recently completed the Auckland half-marathon.
“I’d been a runner on and off for a number of years, but I became more serious about it and started running longer distances when I retired because I had time to train,” he said.
Mr Wareham is not alone in seeing retirement as a chance to embrace a healthier lifestyle, according to new research from Australia’s biggest longitudinal health study which has been providing data on the health of one in 10 NSW men and women aged over 45 years for 12 years.
A change for the better
Research presented at the recent 45 and Up Study annual meeting in Sydney revealed that retirement was associated with positive lifestyle changes.
The researchers looked at lifestyle behaviours such as alcohol use, physical activity, diet, sedentary behaviour and sleep among a cohort of 27,257 working adults from the Study, and followed up 3016 participants who retired over the next three years.
Lead author Dr Melody Ding, Senior Research Fellow at the School of Public Health, University of Sydney, said they found that, compared with people who were still working, retirees were less likely to smoke, they were less likely to be physically inactive, they spent less time sitting during the day, and they had healthier sleep patterns. The differences were significant even after adjusting for factors such as age, sex, urban/rural residence, marital status and education.
There was no significant association found between retirement and alcohol use or fruit and vegetable consumption.
Dr Ding said retirement gave people more time to adopt healthier lifestyles.
“When people are working and commuting, it eats a lot of time out of their day. When they retire, they have time to adopt healthier lifestyles.”
A window of opportunity
She said the findings suggested retirement was an opportunity to engineer new, healthier lifestyles, and both health professionals and policy makers should consider developing special programs for retirees to capitalise on the health transitions through retirement.
“A major life change like this creates a great window of opportunity to promote positive lifestyle changes,” she said.
The 45 and Up Study is managed by the Sax Institute in partnership with major partner Cancer Council NSW and partners: the National Heart Foundation of Australia (NSW Division); NSW Ministry of Health; NSW Government Family & Community Services – Carers, Ageing and Disability Inclusion; and the Australian Red Cross Blood Service.