For many women, body image is a constant battle. In fact, according to the National Health Institute, nearly half of all North American women experience body dissatisfaction.
But a recent study out of the University of British Columbia (UBC) found that body negativity can be mitigated with just a 30-minute bout of exercise. Just 30-minutes spent exercising can make women feel stronger and thinner long after leaving the gym.
“Women, in general, have a tendency to feel negatively about their bodies,” senior author Kathleen Martin Ginis, professor in UBC Okanagan’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences, told EurekAlert. “This is a concern because poor body image can have harmful implications for a woman’s psychological and physical health including increased risk for low self-esteem, depression and for eating disorders. This study indicates exercise can have an immediate positive effect.”
Ginis compared the body image and physical perception of women who performed moderate aerobic exercise for 30 minutes with women who sat and read, finding that those who exercised displayed significant improvements in their body image, and the positive effect lasted at least 20 minutes after exercising. And while exercise can improve mood, the research group found that the reported positive impact on body image was due to women feeling stronger and thinner.
“We think that the feelings of strength and empowerment women achieve post-exercise stimulate an improved internal dialogue,” said Ginis. “This in turn should generate positive thoughts and feelings about their bodies, which may replace the all too common negative ones.”
Ginis believes that the study could help to develop exercise interventions designed to maximize body positivity.
“We all have those days when we don’t feel great about our bodies,” Ginis said. “This study and our previous research shows one way to feel better is to get going and exercise. The effects can be immediate.”
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