Can Exercise Behavior Be Related To Lower Body Esteem?
The objectification theory, introduced by researchers Barbara Fredrickson and Tomi-Ann Roberts in 1997, was first used to describe the effects of a society that sexually objectifies the female body. It has since been applied to men. In recent years, men have been increasingly subjected to media promoting the ideal male physique--one that is muscular and defined. In a study published in the October 2005 issue of Sex Roles, investigators set out to examine the relationship of self-objectification, exercise and body image in men and compared these results to those obtained from women.
The researchers studied 153 subjects, ages 18 to 35 years, consisting of 82 men and 71 women. Subjects completed questionnaires that measured self-objectification, reasons for exercising (e.g., appearance, weight loss, health, fitness, etc.,), body esteem and self-esteem. The results indicated that men like women, who self-objectify and exercise for appearance enhancement tend to report lower body esteem. Study data also indicated that men and women who exercised to improve appearance, rather than to enhance health, were more likely to self-objectify.
The researchers conclude that individuals who self-objectify should be encouraged to view exercise as a means by which to improve health and fitness, not physical appearance, in an attempt to prevent poor body esteem.
Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.
Sex Roles; October 2005; "Reasons for Exercise and Body Esteem: Men's Responses to Self-Objectification; pp.495-503; P. Strelan and D. Hargreaves.