The study, published in the Journal of Preventative Medicine, followed the lifestyle behaviours of 25,000 older Australians. Researchers studied levels of physical activity, diet, sedentary behaviour, alcohol use and sleep patterns and found that people become more active, sleep better and reduce their sitting time when they retire.
"Our research revealed that retirement was associated with positive lifestyle changes," said lead researcher Dr Melody Ding, Senior Research Fellow at the University's School of Public Health.
"Compared with people who were still working, retirees had increased physical activity levels, reduced sitting time, were less likely to smoke, and had healthier sleep patterns."
"A major life change like retirement creates a great window of opportunity to make positive lifestyle changes - it's a chance to get rid of bad routines and engineer new, healthier behaviours." she said.
The data revealed that retirees:
- Increased physical activity by 93 minutes a week
- Decreased sedentary time by 67 minutes per day
- Increased sleep by 11 minutes per day
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.
Researchers believe the study represents good news for older workers delaying retirement for fear of becoming inactive, with retirement giving people more time to pursue healthier lifestyles.