GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- Attention weekend warriors: the simple act of exercise and not fitness itself can convince you that you look better, a new University of Florida study finds.
People who don't achieve workout milestones such as losing fat, gaining strength or boosting cardiovascular fitness feel just as good about their bodies as their more athletic counterparts, said Heather Hausenblas, a UF exercise psychologist. Her study is published in the September issue of the Journal of Health Psychology.
"You would think that if you become more fit that you would experience greater improvements in terms of body image, but that's not what we found," she said. "It may be that the requirements to receive the psychological benefits of exercise, including those relating to body image, differ substantially from the physical benefits."
The study by Hausenblas and graduate student Anna Campbell is the first to systematically analyze the wide-ranging effects of exercise on body image by examining all intervention studies on the subject until June 2008. From the 57 publications, the researchers found conclusively that exercise buffed up the way people see their bodies regardless of the actual benefits, but the results varied.
Negative body image has grown to almost epidemic proportions in the past 20 years, with as many as 60 percent of adults in national studies saying they don't like the way their bodies look, Hausenblas said.
Americans spend billions of dollars a year for products designed to change their body size and shape, including diet pills and various cosmetic procedures, she said.
"Body dissatisfaction is a huge problem in our society and is related to all sorts of negative behavior including yo-yo dieting, smoking, taking steroids and undergoing cosmetic surgery," she said. "It affects men and women and all ages, starting with kids who are as young as five years old saying they don't like how their bo
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University of Florida