Experts warn of health risks if you don’t stay active in retirement

April 20, 2023

Those of us still slogging away at our jobs — maybe working from home, or perhaps beginning our return to the shop — like to dream of a future beyond work, where we’re retired and able to do whatever we want.

But if “doing what we want” is zoning out, drinking coffee, and watching movies from the couch, there could be problems lurking ahead. Save with SPP took a look around to find out what people are saying about the dangers of inactivity in retirement.

According to information from the World Health Organization, cited by the Step2Health blog, physical inactivity is pretty widespread. “Sixty to 85 per cent of people globally lead a sedentary lifestyle,” the blog reports.

“Studies show that sedentary behavior, particularly in the elderly, is detrimental to their health. Medical experts believe that older people sitting too much or spending extended periods in bed are more prone to the risks of chronic health problems such as heart diseases, diabetes, obesity, and even cancer,” the blog notes.

In the U.S., the Center for a Secure Retirement also concludes that “long periods of inactivity are bad for our health.”

“Retirees are particularly vulnerable to sedentary behavior. Retirement is associated with a 10 per cent decrease in moderate to vigorous physical activity and a 13 to 29 per cent increase in TV watching, according to a 2018 study from the National Institute of Health,” the Center notes.

The Center recommends that seniors “take a five minute walk every two hours,” or “stand and march in place during commercials while watching TV.” Another bit of advice is to “walk around, pacing, while you are on the phone” and to “do pushups against the wall while waiting for the oven to heat up or the microwave to finish cooking.”

The BBC also takes the view that an inactive retirement can have negative impacts on both your physical and mental health.

“Research from the Institute of Economic Affairs suggests that while retirement may initially benefit health — by reducing stress and creating time for other activities — adverse effects increase the longer retirement goes on,” reports the BBC.

“It found retirement increases the chances of suffering from clinical depression by around 40 per cent and of having at least one diagnosed physical illness by 60 per cent,” the article continues.

It’s inactivity that can be a chief cause of these problems, the BBC report explains.

“It may be there is no imperative to get up and out of the house, as there was when there was a daily journey to work,” the article notes. “Or it may be that a health problem has meant someone cannot – or does not want to – get out and about.”

An antidote, the network adds, is physical activity.

“Age UK runs a programme called Fit as a Fiddle, which encourages older people to keep physically active — as well as to eat healthily and look after their mental health,” reports the broadcaster. “Simply walking can offer great benefits, including boosting your mood, as can gentle exercise classes.”

Let’s recap. If you decide to spend your retirement sitting around at home, your physical health can decline, and the isolation may impact your mental health. Even light activity can help prevent these problems.

So it’s probably an important part of your retirement plan to think of what you’ll do to keep active after you log out for the last time. Consider taking a dance class, or painting lessons, or volunteering, just to get you out of the house and moving around. Your future you will be glad you thought about this.

And your future you will be pleased if you’ve chosen the Saskatchewan Pension Plan to help you save up for life after work. SPP has been helping Canadians save for retirement for more than 35 years. Let SPP do the heavy lifting of investing your nest egg — via a pooled fund and low management costs — so that you’ll enjoy a nice, extra income stream when you hang up your name tag for the last time.

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Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.

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