Picturing Midlife Body Image and Physical Activity: “It Changes with Every Little Environment”

Friday, 20 July 2018: 09:00
Oral Presentation
Lisa PETTY, Brock University, Canada
Kimberley GAMMAGE, Brock University, Canada
Between the ages of 35-55 years, women’s bodies can undergo a variety of changes that impact body image (Ballard, Elston, & Gabe, 2005). Body image can be both a motivation for and a barrier to participation in physical activity, and is influenced by whether exercise is undertaken for appearance or health concerns (Prichard & Tiggemann, 2008). It is difficult to get a clear picture of the body image experience for midlife women as much of the research involves young women and much of the literature that considers women’s midlife body image focuses on appearance. Furthermore, quantitative studies tend to focus on one or two measures of body image and may therefore may fail to capture nuances of the midlife experience for women whose bodies are in a state of flux. The purpose of this paper was to investigate through photo elicitation how midlife women describe body image and its relationship with physical activity. Participants included English speaking women between the ages of 35-55 years who were willing to take ten photographs that represented their perspectives on the relationship between body image and physical activity and then discuss those photographs. Findings of the study illustrate the complex nature of body image for midlife women in the context of their lives. For example, physical activity was used to fight against aging, but could also serve to remind women that they were no longer young. Further, this research offers insight into the role of physical activity in both supporting and challenging the complex understanding of body image for these midlife women.