Physical activity level among functionally limited and robust older adults: is body satisfaction predictive of physical activity level?

Background and Objectives: Knowing the predictors of physical activity in a given population is an essential step for promoting its practice. Body satisfaction was not yet tested as a predictor of physical activity among the elderly. This study examines how body satisfaction relates to physical activity level in a sample of functionally limited and robust French older adults.

Methods: A self-reported questionnaire on physical activity, body satisfaction (focused on body appearance and functioning), health, and socio-demographic characteristics was completed by 367 eligible older adults twice, at a year’s interval. Among them, 195 were robust individuals (53.1%, aged 60-91, mean age 67.4 ± 6 years), and 172 functionally limited ones (46.9%, aged 60-93, mean age 73.5 ± 8.1). The relationship between body satisfaction and physical activity was tested at baseline, and after one year (prospective data).

Results: Multiple logistic regression models, adjusted for socio-demographic and health-related variables, showed that satisfaction with body functioning was related to high level of physical activity at baseline for the robust group; in the functionally limited group, this variable was related to high and moderate levels of physical activity at baseline. In the predictive model, satisfaction with body functioning was significantly related to high level of physical activity one year later in the functionally limited group. Satisfaction with body appearance was not related to physical activity at baseline and one year later for any group in the adjusted models.

Conclusion: Satisfaction with body functioning seems to be a good predictor of physical activity among functionally limited older adults, being better related to physical activity levels than co-morbidity, self-reported health, chronic pain, and BMI. Functionally limited persons with low levels of physical activity will probably benefit of interventions that improve satisfaction with body functioning.

Keywords: elderly; body image; exercise; functional limitation; predictive study