Does Gender Influence Physical Activity and Psychosocial Factors in Older Exercisers? A Pilot Study

in Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal
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How does gender influence physical and psychosocial characteristics in physically active older adults? Much of the previous research on physical function in older women focuses on either the frailty of older women or on physical function irrespective of gender. These studies leave unknown the specific influence of regular physical activity on older women.

Furthermore, few studies have examined the relationship between physical activity and psychosocial characteristics in older exercisers. We wanted to investigate whether differences exist between groups of older female and male adults who maintain a physically active lifestyle. Twenty-three female and 14 male physically active older adults performed physical function tests (i.e., chair stands, timed up-and-go, 6-minute walk) and filled out questionnaires related to psychosocial measures (i.e., social support, self-esteem, satisfaction with life). There were no differences in any physical function between the groups, and only one psychosocial measure (guidance) statistically differed (F (1, 31) = 4.14, p = .044). These results suggest that physically active women may not necessarily follow the trajectory towards frailty. More research needs to be done with a greater range of ages and physical activity levels.

Elizabeth Orsega-Smith Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition 9 Carpenter Sports Building University of Delaware Newark, DE 19716 E-mail: eosmith@udel.edu Phone: (302)831-6681 Fax: (302)831-4261