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NCHPAD - Building Healthy Inclusive Communities

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Body Perception Through The Lifespan


By: William H. Neumeier, PhD

A lot of emphasis is placed on physique in the summer time.  Media outlets emphasize “summer diets” and obtaining a “beach body.”  Much of this material is designed to appeal to teenagers and younger adults with little emphasis on older adults.  The general perception is older adults may not care about their physical appearance, but that’s not always the case.  More research is indicating concern about physical appearance remains throughout the lifespan.  The scientific phrase associated with how we rate our own physical appearance is “perception of body image.” 

An individual’s perception of his or her own body image has garnered increasing attention for its impact on overall health.  Results from a recent study reported individuals that scored themselves lower on body image also had poorer physical health.  Body image can be a sensitive and personal issue.  A negative stigma or comment about our body can have negative effects on our mood.  Overall, body image seems to be a representation of our overall health perception.  Improved body image can represent an improved general outlook. 

We can become frustrated with our bodies and they may be difficult to change, especially in old age.  But there’s good news!  Research also states that it’s how we feel about our bodies that seem to matter the most, not the actual shape.  These same research studies have demonstrated people’s feelings and perceptions about their own body improved after an eight to sixteen week exercise routine.  We know exercise is great for our health for multiple reasons and improved body image seems to be another reason to add to the list.  So be confident about how you look. Not only will you feel good, but chances are you may also be improving your health.  

Get started with these physical activity resources:


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