The psychological advantages of exercise have been less explored, including the reduction of depression or confidence in body image, compared with the well-researched and understood physical benefits, she said.
The study found no difference in body image improvement between people who met the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines by exercising at least 30 minutes a day five days a week and those who did not, Hausenblas said. The guidelines are considered the minimum amount of exercise needed to receive the health related benefits of physical activity, she said.
"We would have thought that people exercising this amount would have felt better about their bodies than those who did not work out as much," she said.
In other results, the study showed slightly larger benefits from exercise in terms of improving body image for women than men, Hausenblas said.
"We believed the gap would be much bigger, but what could be coming into play is the rise of body image issues among men," she said. "We're seeing more media portrayals of the ideal physique for men rather than the overriding emphasis on women we did in the past."
Age presented another difference, with older people most likely to report enhanced body images from exercise, Hausenblas said. The gap may be explained by the older generation having more concerns about their body image than young people, who tend to exercise more, she said.
While the frequency of exercise mattered for boosting body perceptions, there were no differences for the duration, intensity, length or type of exercise, the study found.
"People who say they have high body dissatisfaction tend to exercise the least, so we wanted to take it a step further and see whether exercise causes people's body image to improve," she said.
Kathleen Martin Ginis, a kinesiology professor at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, and exercise expert, praised the res
|Contact: Cathy Keen|
University of Florida