Exploring the effects of a 12-week exercise intervention on body image in older adults


By 2030, 1 in 4 Canadians will be a senior. This aging population experiences several physical and psychological changes that can negatively impact health and lead to strain on the health care system. Physical activity has been associated with many physical and psychological benefits, such as decreased risk of chronic disease, improved cognitive functioning, ability to perform activities of daily living, higher quality of life, and decreased depression. One benefit that remains understudied in older adults is body image. Exercise can potentially alleviate the negative effects of aging on body image, however, older adults' participation rates in physical activity remain low. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of a 12-week general physical activity program on body image in men and women 55 years and older. Participants (81 men and 217 women) were randomly assigned to an exercise group (60 minutes of supervised cardiovascular, strength, balance, and flexibility training three times per week) or a wait-list control. Measures of evaluation and investment in appearance, health, and illness as well as anxiety about the body were completed at baseline and 12 weeks later. Repeated measures analyses, controlling for gender, were conducted. The results showed no significant group (exercise, control) x time (pre, post) interaction, indicating no improvements on any of the outcomes following exercise (all ps > .05). Overall, the sample was healthy and active prior to participation; future research should investigate changes in a less active sample.