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This study examined whether information about an older person’s exercise habits influences the impressions formed of them by others. British participants (N = 360) from three age categories (16-25 years old, 26-55 years old, and 56+ years old) were asked to read a description of a 65-year-old man or woman described as either an exerciser, a nonexerciser, or a person with no exercise status information. Participants rated the target on 13 personality and 10 physical appearance dimensions. MANOVAs revealed significant main effects for target exercise status and participant age. Exercisers received more favorable ratings than either the nonexercisers or the controls on the majority (15/23) of the personality and physical appearance dimensions (p < 0.05). Participants aged over 56 tended to rate targets more favorably than the other two age categories but only on the physical appearance ratings. The results suggest that there are self-presentational benefits associated with being an exerciser at an older age.
The authors are with the School of Sport, Exercise, & Health Sciences, University of Chichester, Chichester, West Sussex, U.K.