Pensioners are Less Vain, says Report

November 12, 2012

Pensioners are Less Vain, says Report

As many more older people do regular exercise a recent report has found that any changes to body shape are secondary to the benefits achieved when dealing with the workings of the body. A body that works better causes far more satisfaction amongst the exercisers than having a good looking body.

The study which has been published in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine was carried out by Renee Umstattd, assistant professor of health education at Baylor University, Waco, Texas. It consisted of monitoring 1,800 males and females with an average age of 69 who took part in the ‘Active for Life’ program. Those in the program were asked to exercise moderately or vigorously for at least 30 minutes most days of the week, and continue doing so for either 5 or 6 months. The exercise could be anything that the people liked doing. None of the participants had previously exercised on a regular basis.

The author highlights that there are many more benefits to be achieved thru regular exercise than just as a tool to prevent or delay the onset of chronic diseases. She indicates that with a higher level of fitness comes a better quality of life. This is supported by earlier research which has identified an association between declines in body function and lowered values of self-esteem and identity. Previous research has also identified that the more content the individual was with his or her appearance and how their body was functioning then the less likely they were to develop symptoms of depression. In this report it was seen that mental aspects were improved even more because of the body working better, although the improvement in appearance was a factor.

During the initial period most participants reported being “a little dissatisfied” with their body’s appearance. Yet once the program was finished the feeling amongst participants was less negative with a neutral feeling about their bodies. They stated that they were neither satisfied nor unsatisfied. However at the onset of the study most participants were either neutral or dissatisfied about how well their bodies functioned. Once the program concluded a common response was that of ‘almost a little satisfied’.

After regular exercise for about six months the feeling of satisfaction amongst the group, although mainly with the men had increased, states the study. It is suggested that perhaps as humans age their emphasis becomes much more functional. A working body is better than one that looks good.

Other findings from the study include; men felt it was more important than women to have a well functioning body and men cared less about how they looked too. The gains achieved in body function were more satisfying than appearance. If participants were healthier and younger at the outset of the exercise program they were more likely to show a larger improvement in body function leading to greater satisfaction. Black people were less likely to show greater satisfaction than whites but the reason for this is not known. A theory is that the whites had more room for improvement.

Colin Milner, founder of the International Council on Active Aging accepts the findings as logical. He says that older people are fully aware of the benefits to be achieved if one has a body that functions well. He says that many older people say things like, “It is more important that I am able to get up and walk and play with my grandkids than my overall appearance”.

Vanity appears to diminish as we get older and a more pragmatic and functional point of view takes over. Older people tend to think ‘so what, if I’m carrying a few extra pounds, I am still able to do what I want to do’.

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