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Does Exercise Make Me More Attractive? Exploring the Relations Between Exercise and Mate Value

Abstract

Sexual selection in human evolution is well-established. Females are relatively more inclined than males to prefer mates that exhibit physical and social dominance (e.g., muscular, financially successful men); whereas males are relatively more inclined than females to seek mates displaying signs of high reproductive potential (e.g., young, attractive women). Given that physical training has the potential to improve traits related to sexual selection in both males and females, we examined if exercise habits altered assessments of mate value in a cross-sectional analysis of 265 undergraduate students. Participants completed a demographic questionnaire, an “Exercise Habits Inventory,” and a “Mate Value Inventory” for the assessment of the characteristics desired in their “ideal” mates and for self-perceptions of intrinsic mate value. Consistent with prior research, females preferred mates who were independent and generous, and both males and females preferred physically attractive mates. Females, independent of exercise frequency, were more selective than males as evidenced by a desire for “ideal” partners with a significantly higher mate value. Moreover, more frequent exercisers, independent of sex, had significantly higher self-perceived mate value than less frequent exercisers. Finally, a pattern consistent with theories of assortative mating was demonstrated via a significant positive relation between self-perceptions and the mate value of “ideal” partners.

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Data Availability

Data are available upon request.

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Acknowledgments

This study is a part of a larger research project investigating the relations between mating and exercise variables. We thank participants and the student research assistants for data collection.

Funding

This research was partially funded by the College of Liberal Arts Faculty Development Award and Liberal Arts Research Award, University of Southern Indiana, Evansville, IN, USA.

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Contributions

Conceptualization: Urska Dobersek, Jon Maner, Charleen Case. Methodology: Urska Dobersek, Jon Maner, Charleen Case, Bridget Stallings, Gabrielle Wy. Formal analysis and investigation: Urska Dobersek. Writing—original draft preparation: Urska Dobersek. Writing—review and editing: Urska Dobersek, Jon Maner, Charleen Case, Bridget Stallings, Gabrielle Wy. Funding acquisition: Urska Dobersek. Supervision: Urska Dobersek, Jon Maner.

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Correspondence to Urska Dobersek.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee (i.e., Institutional Review Board Committee at the University of Southern Indiana; reference number: 2017-179LA) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Dobersek, U., Stallings, B., Wy, G.C. et al. Does Exercise Make Me More Attractive? Exploring the Relations Between Exercise and Mate Value. Evolutionary Psychological Science 7, 124–133 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40806-020-00270-w

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Keywords

  • Exercise
  • Mate value
  • Sexual selection
  • Assortative mating