Fitness & Health, Sport & Exercise Science

Exercise improves body image

The simple act of exercise and not fitness itself can convince you that you look better, a new University of Florida study finds.

People who don’t achieve workout milestones such as losing fat, gaining strength or boosting cardiovascular fitness, feel just as good about their bodies as their more athletic counterparts, said exercise psychologist Heather Hausenblas, in a study published in the September issue of the Journal of Health Psychology.

“Body dissatisfaction is a huge problem in our society and is related to all sorts of negative behaviour including yo-yo dieting, smoking, taking steroids and undergoing cosmetic surgery,” she said. “It affects men and women and all ages, starting with kids who are as young as five years old saying they don’t like how their bodies look.”

The study found no difference in body image improvement between people who met national guidelines by exercising at least 30 minutes a day five days a week and those who did not, Hausenblas said. The guidelines are considered the minimum amount of exercise needed to receive the health-related benefits of physical activity, she said.

“You would think that if you become more fit that you would experience greater improvements in terms of body image, but that’s not what we found,” she said. “It may be that the requirements to receive the psychological benefits of exercise, including those relating to body image, differ substantially from the physical benefits.”

Source: University of Florida

Heather Hausenblas has had articles published in The Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology and The Sport Psychologist and contributed to Essential Readings in Sport and Exercise Psychology.

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