The effect of retirement on lower limb strength, joint range of motion, balance performance and physical activity levels
Retirement is considered a critical stage of life with profound changes in an individual’s life and lifestyle. With increased life expectancy, an individual could spend a third of his/her lifetime in retirement. It is in this period that falls start to become commonplace and they have been linked to lower limb muscle weakness, reduced joint range of motion, and balance instability. The objective of this longitudinal study was to investigate whether the sudden life changes that occur at retirement are reflected in changes in lower limb strength, joint range of motion, balance performance and physical activity levels. Following a series of pilot studies, ninety-seven healthy individuals aged 50 – 67 years (mean ± [SD] 59.6 [3.9] years) consented to participate in the study (44 males, 53 females). Two groups were established: a retirement group (due to retire imminently), and a control group (at least 12 months away from retirement). Assessments of lower limb strength, joint range of motion, balance performance and physical activity levels within the workplace and household, leisure and sporting activities were undertaken at baseline (one week pre-retirement for the retirement group) and repeated six and twelve months later. The t-Test for independent samples was used to analyse the difference between the groups’ mean values at baseline. No significant differences were found between the retirement group and the control group for the measurement variables (P > 0.05). Correlations were found between balance performance, peak torque and joint range of motion measurements. One third of the participants in both the retirement and control groups were sedentary, and the average lower limb strength values were lower than expected for this age group. Repeat assessments were undertaken six and twelve months post baseline measurements. A mixed design factorial ANOVA test was used to investigate any differences between visits for the groups. Significant differences between the retirement and control group were only observed in the reported physical activity levels for household, leisure and sporting activities (P < 0.01), as the activity level of the control group remained stable, whilst the activity level of the retirement group increased. It would appear that in the twelve months following retirement there is no measurable effect on lower limb strength, joint range of motion or balance performance. This may be due to the significant increase in physical activity levels post retirement, which may have compensated for the loss of physical activity undertaken within the workplace.