While exercise is known to provide several health benefits, not all people will engage in physical activities with the same enthusiasm. A study has found that having a positive attitude to exercise may help ease anxiety related to aging.
It is estimated that more than 10,000 people cross the age of 65 every day in the U.S. By 2035, the elderly population, particularly the Baby Boomer generation, will outnumber the children.
Age-related anxiety may stem from various factors such as worries over physical changes, discomfort of being around older people and fear of losing independence.
“Previous research has shown that if you have high anxiety about aging, you have poor health outcomes. But if you view it more positively as a life stage, you have better health outcomes. You’re more likely to make lifestyle changes that benefit you in the long run,” said Sarah Francis, a professor at Iowa State University, who led the recent study. The findings were published in the journal Physical Activity and Health.
The research team conducted online surveys to understand how aging anxiety was linked to physical activity and other factors. A total of 1,250 participants above the age of 40 from various cross sections of society across seven states in the U.S. responded to a questionnaire.
The findings suggested that African American participants had a greater interest in health-related programs. In a follow-up study, the research team looked more closely at their responses and identified that the highest anxiety about aging was related to loss, particularly among people with low incomes and those who lived alone.
Anxiety about changes in physical appearance was highest in women in the 40-49 age group. Although African American participants had lower rates of physical activity compared to White respondents, they had a positive attitude about exercise, especially strengthening exercises.
“One of the most important findings is that higher positivity about physical activity relates to lower anxiety about aging. Perhaps this is because the physical, mental and social benefits of staying active contribute to overall well-being and a more favorable perception of the aging process, ultimately reducing anxiety related to growing older,” Francis said.
Researchers hope the findings will help to develop workshops that address age-related anxiety while discussing the health benefits of exercise.