Enjoyable Movement Boosts Body Image

The Body Image Project 2

The Body Image Project, Beauty as a Relative Concept, exhited at MSU this week

What do you think you look like? What do you say to yourself when you catch your reflection in a mirror or window or picture? Your body image is how you see yourself in your mind’s eye. Given the idealistic images constantly bombarding us, it’s not surprising that many people think and say negative things about their bodies. In fact by adulthood, most people disapprove of their own bodies.

Children as young as 5-years-old say they don’t like how their bodies look. Recent data shows that in grade school, 40 percent of girls and 25 percent of boys are dissatisfied with their bodies. The numbers escalate through the teenage years and into adulthood when approximately 60 percent of women report body dissatisfaction.

Being critical of your body has all kinds of negative consequences from psychological issues (depression, social anxiety, and eating disorders) to physical risks and sacrifices (smoking, steroid use, and impaired sexual function) to economic costs (diet pills, weight loss programs, cosmetic surgery, beauty and fitness products). Yet beauty and fitness do not predict body satisfaction. 

In a recently published article, researchers reviewed fifty-seven studies looking at exercise intervention programs and their effects on body image. They found that people have a more positive body image through the simple act of exercise, not necessarily achieving the fitness guidelines as defined by The American College of Sports Medicine and The American Heart Association. One factor that made a difference was increased frequency of exercise (number of times per week) which led to even greater body satisfaction. Individuals who did not participate in any form of exercise had the most negative body image.

“You would think that if you become fit that you would experience greater improvements in terms of body image, but that’s not what we found,” said Heather Hausenblas, co-author of the article. Body image improved the same amount regardless of whether or not the fitness guidelines were met.

Health benefits aside, women who have a positive body image rate themselves as happier, more attractive, healthier, more assertive and more sociable and feel they have more control in their lives.  That’s a lot of positives! Move in ways you enjoy for a few minutes on a regular basis to give yourself an immediate boost in body image.


Campbell A, Hausenblas HA. Effects of exercise interventions on body image. Journal of Health Psychology. 2009; 14(6):780-793.


4 comments so far

  1. Ellyn Satter on

    Another great article, Peggy. It reminded me of this old but still good, article:
    Field LK, Steinhardt MA. The relationship of Internally-directed behavior to self-reinforcement, self-esteem and expectancy values for exercise . Am J Health Promot. 1992;7(1 ):21-26.
    Notes: Subjects who exercised for pleasure had high overall well being and physical self esteem. In contrast, subjects who exercised in order to achieve goals in physical appearance or performance were demoralized and had lowered physical self esteem.

  2. Akuya on

    Thanks for this…it says it all …and very well.

  3. Elizabeth on

    I have never heard of such a wonderful thing in my life. Improving my dreadful body image while raking the yard (which I love.) If this were common knowledge, the who dieting industry would come crashing in on its greedy self.

    • Elizabeth on

      Addendum: Last sentence above…the WHOLE dieting industry.

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