New research finds that as they age, men and women have different views of how the body functions and looks. And each gender is more satisfied with their bodies when they perform physical activity.
Baylor University researchers discovered the aging process is accompanied by a shift in body satisfaction away from appearance and towards body functionality, a finding that was documented more consistently in women.
However, when comparing concerns across genders, satisfaction with body functionality was more important for men than women. And increasing body satisfaction in both appearance and function reduced depressive symptoms among older adults.
The study appears online in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine.
Researchers discovered exercise or activity programs not only decrease the risk of a multitude of chronic diseases, but also increase one’s satisfaction with body function and satisfaction with body appearance.
When researchers studied the men and women as a combined group, greater improvements in satisfaction with body function were associated with being younger, better baseline health ratings, greater reductions in body mass index (BMI) and more physical activity.
Greater improvements in satisfaction with body appearance were associated with obtaining a college degree, more reductions in BMI and depressive symptoms, and increases in physical activity.
Ethnic variance was also noted as researchers discovered white older adults have lower overall body satisfaction and see a stronger relationship between physical activity and body satisfaction than African-American older adults.
However, researchers found that improvements with satisfaction with body function and body appearance were more likely among white participants.
“It was interesting that even though body appearance satisfaction seems to be more important for younger populations, especially women, it is still important and relevant among older adults,” said study author Renee Umstattd, Ph.D.
“In one way this is a little disheartening to think that women and men are still wrestling with being satisfied with the appearance of their bodies, even after a life full of various points of meaning. From another angle, the study provides support to promote increased physical activity for older adults and provide effective programming to increase physical activity rates of older adults. Increases in physical activity improve satisfaction in both body appearance and function.”
In the study, researchers surveyed nearly 1,900 participants with an average age of 69 who were in a physical activity program for older adults. They then used simultaneous regression analyses to examine predictors of change in body function satisfaction and body appearance satisfaction.
Source: Baylor University