Exercise as it relates to Disease/The effect of Body dissatisfaction on exercise avoidance

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The below is a critique of the journal article ‘Evaluating the potential roles of body dissatisfaction in exercise avoidance’ by Kimberly R.Morea, L. AlisonPhillipsa and Miriam H.Eisenberg Colman.[1]

Background[edit | edit source]

A person that suffers from body dissatisfaction has a negative perception of their body image, as well as, having negative thoughts and feelings that develop from that perception.[2] 

There are three reasons believed to influence a dissatisfied person in avoiding exercise, namely, emphasis on physique, fatigue and lack of competency towards exercising.

Emphasis of physique

  • This usually develops if they have experienced a stigma towards their body image in the past through exercise. This causes a negative feeling of embarrassment towards physical activity and thus the avoidance of it is created.[1]


  • A dissatisfied person has a perception towards their body as it is unsuitable for exercise. They believe that fatigue is a barrier they are unable to overcome and therefore they should not take part in the exercise in the first place.[1]

Lack of competency

  • Dissatisfied people often have little experience in exercise training, causing them to feel like they are not competent enough to part take in exercise. This leads to the avoidance of exercise because of a low perceived behavioral control.[1]

Due to the above reasons, dissatisfied people may try avoiding cardio vascular exercise.

Where is the research from?[edit | edit source]

Two of the authors, Kimberly R. More and L. Alison Philips, both work in the Department of Psychology, at Iowa State University[1] and have been involved in other research papers that look at different demographics and their relationship towards participating in physical activity. The final author, Miriam H. Eisenberg Colman, has experience in examining people with body and health issues.[1] All three authors bring a range of experience within the field and are well suited in conducting a study of this nature.

What kind of research?[edit | edit source]

This research article was based on a self-reported perspective study design. A perspective study monitors a group of individuals to see if a pattern of behavior emerges that may be caused by a common factor within the group.[3] Additionally, given that dissatisfaction is a psychological factor, self-reported data is the best way to gauge the effects it may have on someone’s motivation to exercise over a set time period.

What did the research involve?[edit | edit source]

The study used 334 undergraduate students between 18–41 years of age. They first recorded their base-line information to create a profile of each person. The questions covered were:

  1. Demographic
  2. Their level of body dissatisfaction
  3. The perceived barriers they may feel
  4. Their perceived behavioral control
  5. And finally, their level of exercise avoidance

Two weeks later, participants were followed up on to record their exercise, each under the same conditions, to limit the margin for error. Each criteria was measured using a survey/questionnaire compiled for this study. Additionally, due to be a new study, several of the individual questions were developed specifically for this study. Therefore, the survey/questionnaire may be improved in the future, to draw greater direct links for exercise avoidance.

What were the basic results?[edit | edit source]

First hypothesis: one predictor being body dissatisfaction and one mediator being exercise avoidance

  • The first hypothesis was proven, with results showing body dissatisfaction was mediated by exercise avoidance[4] β = −0.02, SE = 0.01, 95% CI [−0.05, −0.002]
  • They also found that body dissatisfaction did not have a direct link to exercise avoidance meaning that fewer minutes of exercise due to them wanting to avoid exercise to begin with 

Second hypothesis: one predictor being body dissatisfaction and three mediators being embarrassment, fatigue, and perceived behavioral control

  • The second hypothesis, found that there was a relationship between body dissatisfaction and exercise avoidance and was mediated by embarrassment (3) β =0 .22, SE = 0.04, 95% CI [0.15, 0.29], 0.30] and fatigue β = 0.02, SE = 0.01, 95% CI [0.002, 0.04]
  • The relationship between body dissatisfaction and exercise avoidance was found to not be mediated by perceived behavioral control B = 0.02, SE = 0.01, 95% CI [0.003, 0.06]
  • The relationship between the three variables are dependent on perceived barriers to exercise. This is due to a non-significant direct relationship between body dissatisfaction and exercise avoidance

The study also found that for both Hypotheses, that there was no indirect evidence to say that the persons sex had an effect.

Through the survey style of testing, the study was able to find links illustrating that many exercise avoidance can be influenced by a person’s negativity towards their body image. Additionally, findings in the second hypothesis also include factors of fatigue and embarrassment, stemming from negative body image, giving a stronger tie to exercise avoidance.

What conclusions can we take from this research?[edit | edit source]

This study is an important step towards understanding other factors that affect people’s perceptions of exercise. The paper allows us to understand that people whom feel dissatisfied by their body, participate in less exercise, along with determining several factors that cause this avoidance. Due to being one of the first studies within its area, further research should be done to confirm its findings. Further studies should investigate the development of solutions to the problem that has been outlined through this paper, and what types of body dissatisfaction; fat or muscle dissatisfaction, cause this avoidance. This additional research will allow for the targeting of groups and possible solutions.

Practical advice[edit | edit source]

The research found a correlation between people that have a greater dissatisfaction with their body and exercise avoidance. This means that these people are part of a high-risk group that should be targeted for exercise programs. Such targeting could include:

  • Advertising - can then be developed to help targeted groups through the perceived barriers, such as fatigue and embarrassment, and get them into a fitness center.
  • Educational Programs - The use of educational programs could make targeted groups better aware of their situation, and provide methods of overcoming their perceived barriers.

This could suppress feelings of fatigue and lack of competence when exercising, increase their activity and make them happier on a psychological level in regards to their body image.

Further reading[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. a b c d e f More K, Phillips L, Eisenberg Colman M. Evaluating the potential roles of body dissatisfaction in exercise avoidance. Body Image. 2019;28:110-114.
  2. Body Image [Internet]. Nedc.com.au. [cited 4 September 2019]. Available from: https://www.nedc.com.au/eating-disorders/eating-disorders-explained/body-image/
  3. RETROSPECTIVE vs PROSPECTIVE STUDIES. InPharma. 1981;307(1):3-3.
  4. Figgou L, Pavlopoulos V. Social Psychology: Research Methods. International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences. 2015;(2nd).