Body image concerns for older adult men and women. can we identify correlates of exercise adherence?


Body image research has focused predominantly on younger populations; less is known about older adults. Given the health benefits of exercise and the declining rates of physical activity levels with aging, it is important to identify correlates of adherence to exercise. The present study (1) examined gender differences in body image in older adults, and (2) determined if body image could predict adherence to an exercise program in older adults. Participants were community dwelling men (n = 80) and women (n = 216) aged 55 years or older who were independent walkers with no neural impairments. There were significant gender differences reported for appearance and fitness evaluation (ps < .001), with men reporting feeling more positive and satisfied with their physical appearance and fitness compared to women. Exercise adherence data was examined for a subset of women (n = 133) and men (n = 51) who participated in the 12-week structured exercise program. Two hierarchal regressions were conducted to determine if satisfaction with fitness, health, appearance and body functioning could predict adherence. For women, controlling for BMI, satisfaction variables accounted for significant variance in adherence, F (5, 127) = 3.00, p = .014, R2adj. = .07; satisfaction with body functioning was the only significant predictor (ß = .241, p = .01). For men, the overall regression was not significant. Future research should focus on designing exercise programs for older adults that emphasize body function as opposed to appearance.