Original Article

Sex Roles

, Volume 63, Issue 7, pp 556-567

First online:

Gender in the Gym: Evaluation Concerns as Barriers to Women’s Weight Lifting

  • Jessica SalvatoreAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Amherst College Email author 
  • , Jeanne MarecekAffiliated withSwarthmore College

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Four studies examined why women appear to be less likely than men to lift weights, despite the documented health benefits. An archival analysis (“Study 1”) pointed to a cultural dissociation between women and strength-related exercise goals. Furthermore, a study of women in a university in the mid-Atlantic United States who envisioned lifting weights in public expressed greater evaluation concerns than those who envisioned doing aerobic exercise (“Study 2”); moreover, greater evaluation concerns seemed to deter them from weight lifting. These findings helped to shed light upon gender-differentiated patterns of gym equipment use (“Study 3a”) and reports of psychological discomfort in gyms (“Study 3b”). This work begins to illuminate the sociocultural context of women’s avoidance of certain types of exercise.


Women Evaluation concerns Gender norms Exercise Weight lifting