It is no surprise that many women in the United States are not pleased with how their body looks. In fact, a gender and body image study done in 2013 concluded that only 11% of women over the age of 45 in the United States reported being satisfied with the appearance of their body. While some may think that body image is a woman’s issue, research has shown that men and women have both been impacted by societal beauty norms. Body image dissatisfaction is a major risk factor for unhealthy behaviors, including eating disorders. The negative impact of dissatisfaction with one’s body image may also cause self-esteem, mental health, and depression issues.
On the bright side, research has linked exercise to an increase in satisfaction with one’s body appearance. Researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC) recently investigated the impact of just a 30-minute workout and its effect on a women’s bodily self-perception. The researchers recruited 60 women who had concerns about their body image and exercised regularly. The 60 women were randomly assigned to do either 30 minutes of moderate exercise or to quietly read while sitting. The researchers then evaluated each woman’s baseline body image or how they felt about their body at that specific moment in time. Physical self-efficacy or how they felt about their overall fitness and ability to perform tasks were also evaluated.
The women who exercised improved their body image significantly more than those who read quietly. The impact was almost immediate and lasted for at least 20 minutes after the workout was complete. While these women did not have a different view about their physical self-efficacy, self-perceptions of body fat and overall strength did improved after working out. The change in body image was not linked to their mood, but it seemed that exercising helped the participants see themselves as stronger and thinner.
The researchers concluded that exercising helped women achieve feelings of strength and empowerment, which in turn helped improve their internal dialogue. Exercise also helped generate positive thoughts and feelings about their overall body image, which could possibly replace the negative attitudes about their bodies.
Note: The study did not mention if the study participants were currently on a diet plan or enrolled in a diet program.