Fitness correlates of body image in middle-to older aged adults


Research has shown physical activity leads to improvements in body image, but it has primarily focused on appearance-related outcomes and relatively little work has investigated this relationship in older populations. This study examined the relationships between body satisfaction and fitness among middle to older aged (53 to 88 years) men (n = 73) and women (n = 184). Participants completed measures of satisfaction with body appearance and body function. In addition, measures of body composition (i.e., hip and waist circumference), fitness (i.e., indicators of cardiovascular endurance, upper and lower body muscular endurance, upper and lower body flexibility) and balance (i.e., functional reach) were assessed objectively. Correlations showed that satisfaction with body appearance was positively related to age and negatively to waist circumference. Satisfaction with body function was positively correlated with age, cardiovascular endurance, and muscular endurance in the upper and lower body. A linear regression predicting satisfaction with body appearance was significant, F (9, 242) = 4.80, p < 0.0001, R2ad j= 0.12 with age and cardiovascular endurance significant predictors. The regression predicting satisfaction with body function was also significant, F (9, 244) = 4.83, p < 0.0001, R2adj = 0.12. Age, cardiovascular endurance, lower body muscular endurance, and lower body flexibility were significant predictors. These findings suggest that multiple components of fitness are more strongly associated with satisfaction with body function compared to satisfaction with body appearance in middle to older aged adults. Emphasizing fitness benefits related to body function may improve body image in older populations.