Emma Keegan

What Motivates you to Exercise? How Body Image Affects Motivations and Attitudes to Exercise

Body image has consistently been advertised in the media as important. Unhealthy techniques such as diet fads have been utilized to adapt our body to media standards; however, one technique that has proven beneficial is exercise. Exercise improves cardiovascular and mental health; however, exercising for appearance reasons weakens the relationship between exercise and body image. Motivations may play a role in how exercise affects us. For example, one study found that individuals who participated in health-focused exercise rather than appearance-based exercise, had more positive affect post-exercise. However, it has been suggested that those who have a more negative body image before exercise do not receive similar benefits after health-motivated exercise. Existing research has identified relationships between exercise and affective body image; however, research is needed to explore other aspects of body image such as cognitive, perceptual, and behavioral. In the current study, 32 participants (78.1% female) completed questionnaires related to affective, cognitive, perceptual, and behavioral body image along with motivations and attitudes about exercise. It was found that affective and cognitive body image types were motivated by revitalization and strength and endurance, perceptual by weight management and appearance, and behavioral by ill-health avoidance. Individuals with greater affective and perceptual, and less avoidant behavior had more positive attitudes toward exercise. Our findings suggest that motivation to exercise varies by body image type. Future research should investigate other factors that may influence body image such as shame and BMI as they may alter the relationship between body image and exercise motivation.

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