Academic journal article Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal

Predictors of Self-Objectification in New Female Fitness Center Members

Academic journal article Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal

Predictors of Self-Objectification in New Female Fitness Center Members

Article excerpt

This study aimed to ident5 predictors of self-objectification among exercising women. A brief questionnaire incorporating demographic questions and measures of self-objectification was completed by 133 new female fitness center members (aged 16 to 68 years) upon joining a fitness center and 12 months later. Results demonstrated that young women who remained fitness center members had greater self-objectification at 12 months than women who ceased their memberships. Furthermore, both initial age and reasons for exercise predicted subsequent increases in self-objectification. Specifically, being younger, as well as being more motivated by appearance-related reasons to exercise, predicted self-objectfication at 12 months. These findings suggest that young women exercising within the fitness center environment may be at an increased risk of developing self-objectification, one of the predictors of negative body image and disordered eating

Introduction

There is no doubt that there are a host of physical and psychological benefits to participating in regular physical activity. For example, evidence shows that regular exercise increases longevity, immune function, and musculo-skeletal health (Biddle & Mutrie, 2008). Research has also demonstrated that physical activity has a positive impact on affect (Reed & Ones, 2006) and levels of depression (Rethorst, Wipfli, & Landers, 2009). In addition, meta-analyses of the relationship between exercise and body image also reliably demonstrate that exercise has the ability to improve body image (Campbell & Hausenblas, 2009; Reel et al., 2007). Research shows that across their lifespan physically active men and women are more satisfied with their bodies than their inactive counterparts (Loland, 2000).

Despite these benefits, however, two-thirds of the world's population do not participate in sufficient regular physical activity (Biddle & Mutrie, 2008). In addition, not all individuals benefit from physical activity. It has been suggested that a number of factors, such as the type of exercise (lean vs. non-lean) and reasons for participation (weight focused vs. health focused), might impact upon whether exercise acts as a protective factor against body image and eating concerns (Ackard, Brehm, & Steffen, 2002; Smolak, Murnen, & Ruble, 2000). In general, female exercisers have greater drive for thinness, body dissatisfaction and eating pathology than exercising males as well as both male and female non-exercisers (Penas-Lledo, Sancho, & Waller, 2002; Wolf & Akamatsu, 1994). For some young women (aged 16-21 years), instead of experiencing the psychological benefits previously mentioned, the more they exercise, the worse they actually feel about themselves in terms of their body satisfaction and self-esteem (Tiggemann & Williamson, 2000). This finding has been attributed to reasons for exercise, whereby younger women tend to exercise more for appearance-related reasons such as to lose weight or to tone up rather than for functional or health-related reasons (Tiggemann & Williamson, 2000). Recent research supports this suggestion by demonstrating that it is not necessarily the frequency or amount of exercise that is important, but rather the cognitions that women hold for doing exercise (e.g., Adkins & Keel, 2005; Cook & Hausenblas, 2008; Mond, Hay, Rodgers, & Owen, 2006).

There are a host of reasons why people may choose to exercise, such as enjoyment, weight control, stress relief and improving body tone. According to some authors (e.g., Furnham, Badmin, & Sneade, 2002; Strelan, Mehaffey, & Tiggemann, 2003), these reasons can be collapsed into three conceptually distinct domains: physical health-related reasons (e.g., to improve physical fitness and health), mental health-related reasons (e.g., to reduce stress or for enjoyment), and appearance-related reasons (e.g., to lose weight or improve appearance). …

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