Motivations for Exercise Help Explain Body Image Differences

Article excerpt

What Was the Question?

Prichard and Tiggeman (2008) investigated the effects of various types of fitness center exercises on women's self-objectification, body esteem, and eating disorders. They also evaluated how motivation interacted with choice of exercise and the resulting psychological aspects.

What Was Done?

The study included 571 female fitness-class participants, between the ages of 18 and 71, who were recruited from fitness centers in a metropolitan city in Australia. Prichard and Tiggemann (2008) cited earlier research indicating that one-third of exercising women use fitness centers, thereby supporting their participant selection. On average, participants had been fitness center members for 3.70 years, exercised a total of 7.62 hours per week at and outside the fitness center, and wished to be 6 kg lighter than their current body weight. A questionnaire was developed using a range of preexisting, standardized measures to assess background information, exercise participation, reasons for exercise, self-objectification, body esteem, and disordered eating behavior. Women who agreed to participate took home a copy of the questionnaire to complete at their convenience and returned it in a postage-paid envelope (51.92% response rate).

What Was Found?

Participants reported levels of self-objectification, body esteem, and disordered eating behaviors comparable to those published in previous studies. This sample also reported health/fitness as the most highly rated reason for exercise, followed by appearance-related and enjoyment or mood-improvement reasons. The researchers found that time spent exercising at fitness centers was positively related to eating disorders, self-objectification, and reduced body esteem. Inverse relationships were found for exercising outside of a fitness center. Further evaluation of exercise by type revealed that cardio-based exercise was positively associated with self-objectification and eating disorders, as well as negatively associated with health-related reasons for exercise. Enjoyment was related to cardio-based group exercise classes, but not to individual cardio exercise. Increased participation in yoga was negatively associated with self-objectification. Older women reported exercising more for health and fitness, while younger and heavier women exercised more for appearance improvement. Body esteem decreased for those participating in individual and class cardio workouts, and disordered eating increased when the reason for exercise was appearance-related. …