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With Age, Focus on Body Shifts From Appearance to Function
Date:8/5/2011

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Aug. 5 (HealthDay News) -- For older Americans who decide to get more physically active, a new study finds that performance often trumps appearance.

The boost in body functioning that older adults gained from about six months of exercise proved more satisfying than any change in appearance, especially among men, according to the research. This suggest that with advancing years, a shift in emphasis may occur, one that puts a premium on a well-functioning body over a "hot" body, experts said.

"If we can get older adults to become more physically active, there are other benefits related to quality of life," said study author Renee Umstattd, assistant professor of health education at Baylor University, Waco, Texas. While many adults think of exercise as helping to prevent or delay chronic disease, Umstattd said her study shows there is much more to it than that.

Her study, published online in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine, looked at more than 1,800 men and women, average age 69, enrolled in the Active for Life program at 12 sites across the United States. None of them had exercised regularly before the study, and they participated in motivational sessions by phone or in classes throughout the trial.

Participants were asked to do 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise most days of the week through any activity of their choice, including walking, for the duration of the program, which lasted either five or six months.

At the start, most participants reported being "a little dissatisfied" with their body's appearance, but at the program's conclusion participants liked their bodies more -- or at least disliked them less. They reported, on average, an almost "neutral" feeling, meaning they were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with their body appearance, Umstattd said.

And when paticipants asked about how well their bodies function
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