Aging and exercise: Perceptions of the active lived-body
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionFougner M, Bergland A, Lund A, Debesay J. Aging and exercise: Perceptions of the active lived-body. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice. 2018:1-12 https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09593985.2018.1456584
Exploring older people’s evocation of their positive experiences of aging has been proposed as a counterweight to the Western stereotype of aging as a process of decline. The aim of this article is to explore how aging women, who participate regularly in group exercise classes, perceive their own bodies and the bodies of others. This article reports on the findings from interviews with 16 women between the age of 70 and 85. We analyzed the data using qualitative content analysis. Two overarching and interrelated themes concerning body perception emerged from the interviews: “The aging body and appearance” and “The body as subject and object.” The binary discourse of old age, as either a decline or a success appears in our findings. The training contributes to a sense of well-being experienced through perceived increased physical abilities, self- image and self-esteem. Physical ability was perceived as being more important than appearance by the participants in this study, considering their preconception of an association between declining health, abilities, and older age. Involvement in physical activity appears to play a significant role in the perception of the women’s own aging. Although physical attractiveness is a desirable outcome, the most important positive impact of the group exercise was related to increased social belonging and well-being, physical abilities, and capabilities. Thus implications for practice suggests that an intensive group training contributes to the opinion that an aging body is not necessarily a barrier to positive and successful aging.