Women Are More Sedentary After Retirement, Studies Show

Did you know that, according to a study, women are prone to be more sedentary after retirement? Keep reading to learn more about the results of this research from Finland.
Women Are More Sedentary After Retirement, Studies Show

Last update: 05 August, 2021

There’s a common impression that, after retirement, people tend to become more sedentary. This is because they don’t need to go to work or perform certain tasks related to having a job.

To gather objective evidence in this regard, a medical team from the University of Turku (Finland) conducted research on the subject. The aim was to find out the sedentary time before and after retirement, comparing whether these measures differ by gender and occupation.

After year-long observations with almost 500 participants, they concluded that sedentary hours increased among women and remained at a high level in men.

This is something to pay close attention to, to reduce the amount of inactive time in retired people. Doing so reduces the risk of suffering from illnesses that have to do with sedentary lifestyles.

Sedentary lifestyles before and after retirement

Experts define a sedentary lifestyle as behavior with low energy expenditure that takes place during wakefulness, whether sitting, reclining, or lying down, watching television, listening to music, sitting in front of the computer, or reading.

According to several studies, sedentary lifestyles have increased in the world during the last decades. This is due to technology linked to work, housework, and commuting, as well as leisure.

Sedentary time is quite high on average in Western countries. And it tends to increase with age and after retirement, according to studies that report this.

A woman lying sitting in her living room looking at a digital device with a child.
Sedentary lifestyles exist across all stages of life, as technology has taken the place of physical activity in practically all age groups.

You may also be interested in: Foods You Need if You Have A Sedentary Job

How did the study take place?

In the research by Suorsa et al, which appeared in the 2019 Journals of Gerontology, the authors began with the premise that studies on sedentary lifestyles had already taken place, but most are self-reported.

This means that those who participated provided the information themselves. However, the data can be unreliable, being subject to recall and reporting biases, as the person may not remember or not say something out of convenience.

To avoid such a problem, the researchers relied on technological resources to make accurate, yet objective, measurements. For this purpose, they used accelerometers, which the participants placed on their wrists.

The final sample consisted of 478 people, public sector workers, retired between 2016 and 2019, and who had previously participated in a study on older adults in Finland (FIREA). The researchers contacted them based on their estimated retirement date. Those who agreed to participate were followed up with questionnaires and accelerometer measurements.

What were the results?

Accelerometer data were taken using the aforementioned device before and after retirement, one year apart. Among the main results of the study, the following stand out:

  • The majority were women (85 %) working in manual occupations (67 %).
  • The average age at retirement was 63.2 years.
  • The average duration of wakefulness was 16.1 hours before and 15.7 hours after retirement. Thus, there was an increase in sleep hours.
  • During their working life, women had an average of 8 hours and 10 minutes of sedentary time per day.
  • Women were more sedentary after retirement, by 29 minutes on average.
  • Although sedentary time was lower in women with manual occupations, they showed a greater increase after retirement (63 minutes).
  • Before retirement, the daily sedentary time of men was almost two hours more than that of women. However, men showed no change after retirement.

Women are more sedentary after retirement: That’s the conclusion

This is the first longitudinal study to analyze changes in sedentary time schedules, measured objectively. The findings confirm other previous results because although sedentary behavior indeed increases after retirement from work, this isn’t the same for everyone.

As observed, we can say that men on average are less active but women become more sedentary after retirement. Although the researchers suggest that measurements should be made with other populations, they believe that it’s possible to extrapolate the results.

Why should we be active in old age?

These conclusions can be taken into account as a warning sign, since the risks of sedentary lifestyles, which are associated with various pathologies, are well known:

Therefore, after retirement, we must get active to reduce these risks. It’s possible to overcome sedentary lifestyles with a little willpower. The benefits are unquestionable.

An older couple participating in a gym class.
After retirement, both men and women must overcome sedentary lifestyles through exercise.

How to have an active retirement

To have an active retirement, we must start by giving up some of the hours we dedicate to inactive leisure. This refers to watching television or surfing the internet, whether on the tablet, phone, or computer.

At the same time, there are various exercise routines for seniors that you can do at home. It’s important to note that physical activity for the elderly adapts in terms of effort. Likewise, stretching and strengthening exercises for the various areas of the body should be included.

Experts also recommend substituting sedentary activities for others that demand caloric expenditure. One alternative is dance classes. The benefits of dance are diverse, both physically and socially.

Another option is to join clubs and associations. Although in some cases these aren’t very dynamic activities, just having to move around (preferably on foot) means leaving the house and getting out of a sedentary lifestyle.

Women who are more sedentary after retirement can change the statistics

Retirement can be a complicated and even challenging time. We’ve learned to work and always be busy. However, we haven’t been taught what to do when it’s time to be home alone.

And while most people have a hobby to distract them and fill the hours they used to spend at work, many of these activities don’t require physical exertion.

Consequently, as is true at other times in life, after retirement, it’s important to reinvent yourself to carry one with a healthy lifestyle. Women who are more sedentary after retirement can improve their well-being and quality of life with small active changes.

It might interest you...
The Importance of Choosing Where to Grow Old
Step To HealthRead it in Step To Health
The Importance of Choosing Where to Grow Old

It's important from an early age to consider where you want to grow old. Discover some of the options available and how to choose.



  • Bellettiere J, Healy GN, LaMonte MJ, et al. Sedentary behavior and prevalent diabetes in 6,166 older women: the objective physical activity and cardiovascular health study. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2018; 74: 387 – 395.
  • de Rezende LF, Rey López JP, Matsudo VK, do Carmo LO. Sedentary behavior and health outcomes among older adults: a systematic review. BMC Public Health. 2014; 14: doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-333.
  • Ekelund U, Steene-Johannessen J, Brown WJ, et al.; Lancet Physical Activity Series 2 Executive Committee; Lancet Sedentary Behaviour Working Group. Does physical activity attenuate, or even eliminate, the detrimental association of sitting time with mortality? A harmonised meta-analysis of data from more than 1 million men and women. Lancet. 2016;388:1302– 1310. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(16)30370-1
  • Leskinen T, Pulakka A, Heinonen OJ, et al. Changes in non-occupational sedentary behaviours across the retirement transition: the Finnish Retirement and Aging (FIREA) study. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2018; 72: 695–701.
  • Powell C, Herring MP, Dowd KP, Donnelly AE, Carson BP. The cross-sectional associations between objectively measured sedentary time and cardiometabolic health markers in adults—a systematic review with meta-analysis component. Obes Rev. 2018; 19: 381–395.
  • Stenholm S, Pulakka A, Kawachi I, et al. Changes in physical activity during transition to retirement: a cohort study. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2016; 13: doi:10.1186/s12966-016-0375-9.