Self-Objectification in Group Exercise Participants: The Role of Reasons for Exercise and Modality
Problem Statement: Exercise is a health behavior promoted for its vast array of physical and mental health benefits. However, there is some evidence that not all individuals necessarily have positive mental health outcomes with exercise as evidenced by measures such as body image. Influential variables, such as exercise modality and reasons for exercise need to be explored in at-risk, young females to promote optimal effects of exercise on both body and mind. Background: Objectification theory
... ctification theory provides a framework for understanding the bodily experience of and psychological outcomes from exercise in women. While traditional fitness classes, including aerobics, have been associated with poor body image outcomes, yoga has been suggested as an alternative class choice that may ameliorate those negative consequences. No studies have incorporated reasons for exercise and different group exercise modalities to measure changes in selfobjectification and associated outcomes over time in the target population. Methods: Self-reported data was gathered from 86 college females participating in group exercise classes at the university recreation center to assess self-objectification, reasons for exercise, body awareness, body responsiveness, and body esteem. Six weeks later, 35 participants returned a second set of surveys for longitudinal analyses. Bivariate correlations were performed to establish correlations between variables at baseline. Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) was performed to examine differences related to exercise class modality (e.g. cardio/strength vs. yoga) and appearance-related reasons for exercise (higher vs. lower). Paired sample t-tests were used to examine differences in these groups from baseline to the end of classes at six weeks. Results: At baseline, self-objectification was positively correlated with appearancerelated reasons for exercise (r = .60, p < .01), and negatively correlated with body responsiveness (r = -.33, p < .05) and appearance-related body esteem (-.36, p < .05) in all participants. The yoga group reported significantly higher mood/enjoyment reasons for exercise (F = 5.45, p <.05). Participants exercising for higher levels of appearance-related reasons reported significantly greater self-objectification scores (F = 18.28, p < .001) and lower levels of appearance-related (F = 5.05, p < .05) and weight-related (F = 7.31, p < .01) body esteem than those below the median. Over time, significant increases were seen in appearance-related body esteem (p < .05) for the high appearance-related reasons for exercise group participating in yoga classes (N = 6) and in weight-related body esteem (p < .05) for the low appearance-related reasons for exercise group participating in cardio/strength classes (N = 13). Participants in the higher appearance-related reasons for exercise group, reported a decrease from 5.13 to -.50 in self-objectification (t = 2.21, p < .05) regardless of exercise modality group. Significance and Conclusion : Despite a small group size (N = 6), participants with higher appearance-related reasons for exercise experienced a significant increase in appearance-related body esteem, which has been linked to positive global self-esteem. The present study supports existing literature's findings on the significance of reasons for exercise and shows some differences in body image outcomes in yoga students compared to students taking cardiovascular and strength-based classes. This naturalistic, observational pilot study had several methodological limitations but is the first of its kind to measure these variables over time. Future research adopting an experimental design is needed to more clearly illustrate directionality and causal relationships of variables. iv ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This process has helped me become a better-rounded professional in the field of fitness and wellness. It has provided insight that I will allow to guide my future work in campus recreation. I must first acknowledge that this study could not have been completed without the cooperation of the University Of Rhode Island Department Of Recreational Services and the support of Director Jodi Hawkins.