Effects of Aerobic and Circuit Training on Fitness and Body Image among Women

By Henry, Ruth N.; Anshel, Mark H. et al. | Journal of Sport Behavior, December 2006 | Go to article overview

Effects of Aerobic and Circuit Training on Fitness and Body Image among Women


Henry, Ruth N., Anshel, Mark H., Michael, Timothy, Journal of Sport Behavior


Research on body image has been abundant in recent years, partly due to its role in the development of eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa (Cohen & Petrie, 2005). Body image refers to the accuracy of the perception of the person's bodily size and to the thoughts and feelings associated with the individual's view of the body (Cash, 1989). Traditionally, body image has been viewed as a multidimensional construct comprised of two independent components, perception (i.e., size estimation) and attitudes (i.e., body-related affects and cognitions; Cash, 1989, 1994; Rowe, 1999; Shontz, 1969). While the earlier research addressed the perceptual component of body image (e.g., Thompson, 1995), more recent studies have focused on assessment and treatment of body self-image disturbances (Brown, Cash, & Mikulka, 1990; Grant & Cash, 1995; Koff& Bauman, 1997; Tiggeman & Williamson, 2000).

The collective term referring to body dissatisfaction, discrepancies between actual and perceived body size, and negative affect when comparing one's body to perceived societal norms is called "body image disturbance." The greatest source of body image disturbance is sociocultural (Heinberg, 1995). In many cultures, including the U.S., females feel pressured to achieve a near-impossible degree of thinness and to avoid weight gain and obesity (Striegel-Moore, McAvay, & Rodin, 1986). Messages from the mass media are partly responsible (Van den Buick, 2000).

Van den Buick (2000) reported that among adolescents, the degree of watching television correlated negatively with ideal body image; frequent viewers preferred a thinner ideal body than less frequent television viewers. In another study, Harrison and Cantor (1997) found that the amount of time viewing television significantly predicted overall body dissatisfaction. The print media is not exempt from its influence on body image. Harrison and Cantor also reported a significant relationship between reading of fashion magazines and body dissatisfaction. Thus, the concomitant self-inflicted need to achieve the perceived ideal body type has led to increased body dissatisfaction, especially among adolescents and young adults. Apparently, this issue is not new. For example, Rodin, Silberstein, and Striegel-Moore (1985) predicted that dissatisfaction with one's body may one day become the societal norm, a phenomenon they called normative discontent.

Perhaps the most potentially harmful by-product of negative body image is increased risk of eating disorders (Thompson, 1995). The media has been identified as the culprit in promoting unrealistic ideals. For example, Thomsen, Weber, and Brown (2001) found a strong correlation between frequency of reading women's health and fitness magazines and the use of unhealthy weight practices among high school girls. Because the female adolescent's self-image is usually interpersonally oriented, post pubertal changes in body shape and weight are particularly stressful (Striegel-Moore, Silberstein, & Rodin, 1986). Body shape and weight become critical determinants of self-esteem in adolescence because interpersonal success is increasingly seen as closely linked to physical attractiveness (Brownell, Rodin, & Wilmore, 1992). According to Johnson, Steinberg, and Lewis (1988), thinness has increasingly been associated with a highly valued personal achievement, demonstrating self-control, autonomy, and success. Conversely, obesity, or the absence of weight control can lead to social discrimination and low self-esteem. Thus, the pursuit of thinness is commonly perceived an action or goal in which young women can obtain favorable social responses thereby enhancing self-esteem.

Distorted body image among females, then, is a very common cause of eating disorders. For example, Overdorf (1991) reported that "a little over half (of 102 high school female U.S. athletes) saw themselves as heavy, while in reality only 3% might be classified on the heavy side" (p.

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Effects of Aerobic and Circuit Training on Fitness and Body Image among Women
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