, Volume 25, Issue 1-2, pp 33-44

Body image and exercise: A study of relationships and comparisons between physically active men and women

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A group of physically active women (n=112) and men (n=88) of a broad range of ages were compared on a number of variables related to body image, weight and diet concerns, and degree of exercise participation. Interrelationships between these measures were also examined. Results indicated that men and women were equally dissatisfied with their current weight. Although most women wanted to lose weight, the men were evenly divided between those who wanted to lose and those who wanted to gain. Women, however, were more dissatisfied with their bodies and placed greater importance on their appearance as an influence on their feelings of well-being. Although there were no sex differences in degree of physical activity, women were more likely than men to exercise to try and lose weight. Of interest was the finding that age was not related to body focus or body dissatisfaction for either sex. For women and older men, the degree to which they exercised was not associated with any of the body image variables. A very different pattern of relationships was found for young men. Greater body satisfaction was associated with increases in exercise participation and with increased body focus, a variable that was also associated with increased levels of exercise. The profile of results is considered in the context of social influences such as health promotion and sex roles — factors that have likely affected current attitudes to physical appearance and physical attractiveness among both sexes.