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

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgement

Studies 3a and 3b originally constituted part of the first author’s honors thesis at Swarthmore College, advised by the second author and Andrew Ward. We would like to thank Kate Hurster for serving as an experimenter for those studies, Matt Oransky and Chris Robus for serving as critical incident coders, Shirit Kronzon and Adam Anolik for help with creating stimulus materials, and Andrew Ward and Genia Kozorovitskiy for feedback and comments on past drafts.

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Correspondence to Jessica Salvatore.

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Salvatore, J., Marecek, J. Gender in the Gym: Evaluation Concerns as Barriers to Women’s Weight Lifting. Sex Roles 63, 556–567 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-010-9800-8

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Keywords

  • Women
  • Evaluation concerns
  • Gender norms
  • Exercise
  • Weight lifting