Millennials: When it comes to body image, take a cue from baby boomers

Posted by |

Ask a 25-year-old what it means to be in shape, and she might say being “a size 2” or “ripped.” For members of another generation, being “fit” means a different thing entirely — one I uncovered on Facebook.

When met with the question “What does being fit mean to you?”, members of the SilverSneakers Facebook community (the majority of whom are program participants 65 and older) shared their thoughts. Their individual voices might as well have been in unison; their comments reflected a single, unified message about why they made time for physical activity.

Collectively and consistently, these older individuals promoted ability and longevity over appearance.

One need only to scan Instagram to see that young adults today possess a negative body image. In fact, in a 2014 study by Glamour magazine, 54 percent of women polled said they were unhappy with their body — and a staggering 80 percent said simply “looking in the mirror” made them feel bad.

In a world of retouching and filters, plumpers and plastic surgery, millennials could take a cue from these seniors.

Words from the wise on “being fit”

“At 82, it means being able to do what I want/need to do, myself, regardless of what my body looks like. Love life! <3” – Audrey K Stone

“Stamina, strength, energy — and you can have that when fit or ‘fat’ … ‘fat’ in my case being bulked up… from a lifetime of heavy work with and around horses.” – Marcia Miller

“Great question! Should I compare myself to a 20 something athlete or to a fat, weak middle-aged person who can barely walk a few blocks? The answer changes… for me being fit is being/getting as strong physically and aerobically as well as flexible as is possible for me.” — George MacDonald

“Having the get up and go attitude! Getting a good report card from my doctor.” – Carol Pistolis

“Being healthy, less likely to fall, feeling good.” – Deborah Joy-Wieder

“Having the training, teaching and community support (of SilverSneakers) to help me be in the best physical shape I can be in, even with health issues.” – Carolyn Krey Beam

“Having the energy, health and flexibility to avoid the doctor.” – Steven Halko

“Being able to walk my Golden Retriever without getting winded and lifting my paddleboard onto my car without breaking my neck! Strength and endurance to do the things I love.” – Mary Powers

“Being fit means being able to do the things you want to do instead of having someone do them for you.” – Gary Hoover

And perhaps the perfect summary?

“Eating healthy, stamina, exercising regularly, energetic, mentally happy, being able to enjoy life in the fullest, whatever you choose to do! Just being happy with yourself inside and out to the best of your ability. Large, medium or small. We’re all in this together.” – Nancy Nail

Bottom line

As a young woman who has found herself obsessing over those last five pounds, it’s a stirring reminder of what our generation sometimes takes for granted: the simple fact that we have bodies that work. Far too often we’re focused on our “thunder thighs” that we forget to be grateful for what that means: that we can walk, run, hike, jump and climb. Whatever boat we’re in, it’s important to appreciate what we can do. Being “fit” is not independent of the body; it also exists in the mind.

Millennials: It doesn’t have to take 40-odd years for you to adopt a healthy body image. Start now.

Check Your SilverSneakers Eligibility