Date of Award

Spring 1995

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Urban Services - Urban Education

Committee Director

Stephen G. Greiner

Committee Member

Thomas F, Cash

Committee Member

Claudette Dubilewski

Committee Member

Brian C. Leutholtz

Committee Member

Jane Hager


Cumulative evidence shows body dissatisfaction is a salient problem among women, and is linked to various psychological disorders and disturbances. While numerous perspectives regarding the negative body-image phenomenon exist, one area of scientific inquiry is the relationship between physical exercise and body image. With the current sociocultural emphasis on physical fitness and attractiveness, the effects of exercise on body image warrants serious consideration. The present investigation compared 57 women who participated in a 13-week aerobic exercise program to 29 sedentary control women on the following variables: state and trait body image, cardiorespiratory fitness, and body composition. The exercising women were randomly assigned to complete the state body-image assessment either immediately following exercise (n = 31) or the following sedentary day (n = 26). This was done to evaluate the reactivity of the immediate exercise experience or environment on body image. The study's results confirmed that, relative to the sedentary women, the exercisers made significant improvements on trait body image, related both to their appearance and their fitness and health. In addition, participants in exercise training significantly improved state body-image satisfaction over time, regardless of whether assessment was immediate or delayed. These results indicate that aerobic exercise is effective in the stable improvement of state and trait body image. Furthermore, the exercisers exhibited significant gains in cardiorespiratory fitness, while the sedentary women did not. Although body fat was substantially lowered over time among the exercisers, these reductions were not significant compared to the controls. The exercisers' favorable outcomes were sustained at 9-10 week follow-up among those who continued to exercise (n = 20). The present investigation offers optimism for improving body satisfaction for women who are willing to participate in aerobic exercise. The extent to which exercise positively alters body image among other populations warrants further research.


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