Which matters more: Living wrinkle-free or pain-free? As we age, our feelings about our own bodies might change, and new research indicates that along with age comes a shift in body satisfaction away from appearance and toward body functionality.

The research, from Baylor University, also indicates that the shift toward functionality is more pronounced for women over time, with younger women caring more about appearance than do older women, who care more about functionality. Overall, mean care more about functionality that appearance, when compared with women.

Another finding showed by increasing body satisfaction in both appearance and function, depressive symptoms of older adults were reduced, according to a university press release.

“The research found programs that are successful at increasing participation in physical activity among older adults not only decrease the risk of a multitude of chronic diseases, but also increase one’s satisfaction with their body function and their satisfaction with body appearance,” the press release noted.

“When researchers studied the men and women as a combined group, greater improvements in satisfaction with body function were associated with being younger, better baseline health ratings, greater reductions in body mass index (BMI) and more physical activity,” the press release noted. “Greater improvements in satisfaction with body appearance were associated with obtaining a college degree, more reductions in BMI and depressive symptoms, and increases in physical activity.”

To conduct the study, researchers surveyed nearly 1,900 participants with an average age of 69 who were in a physical activity program for older adults. They then used simultaneous regression analyses to examine predictors of change in body function satisfaction and body appearance satisfaction, according to the press release.

This is the first study to incorporate a geographically and ethnically diverse, community-based sample of older men and women engaged in a physical activity intervention to examine the relationships of change in body satisfaction with changes in physical activity, BMI and depression.

The study appears online in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

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