What Is the Connection between Exercise and Body Image?

Valerie Goldberg

There are several connections that can be made between exercise and body image. Exercise is a key component of staying in shape, which can improve body image. An increased fitness routine can cause a person to burn calories, build muscle and even fit into a smaller clothing size. A more positive body image can be obtained by people who exercise regularly, in part because of the resulting physical changes, compliments from others and the psychological benefits of movement.

Eating junk food may help some people relieve stress, but it often leads to weight gain and negative body image.
Eating junk food may help some people relieve stress, but it often leads to weight gain and negative body image.

One obvious connection between exercise and body image is what a person can physically see in the mirror or measure on a scale. A person who feels that he or she needs to lose weight will have a better body image as he or she starts to feel his or her clothes fitting more loosely after a few weeks of vigorous exercise. People who start to hit the gym frequently may begin to notice more defined abdominals or toned arm muscles. These physical improvements that result from a good workout can elevate the way a person feels about his or her body. Many people also enjoy measurable results, so regular post-exercise weigh-ins that display a lower number on the scale can lead to good body image.

Weight training can tone the muscles, resulting in a positive body image.
Weight training can tone the muscles, resulting in a positive body image.

A person who is overweight and begins to drop some pounds as a result of exercise may begin to receive more compliments from peers and the opposite sex. When someone gets good feedback from other people, it can have a positive impact on that person's self-esteem. The person also may start to notice himself or herself getting asked out on more dates or invited to more parties now that he or she has lost some weight. The person may realize the connection between exercise and body image at this time and continue to exercise to help keep his or her self-image high.

Many people enjoy doing yoga because it relieves stress, which improves overall body image.
Many people enjoy doing yoga because it relieves stress, which improves overall body image.

There also is a psychological connection between exercise and body image. Some people feel good when they exercise, even if no weight is lost and no physical changes have occurred. When the human body moves during a good workout, positive endorphins are released that trigger pleasure in the brain. This reaction means exercise can be great for people's body images, especially those who suffer from depression and anxiety.

The psychological aspects of exercise also are positive for people who work stressful jobs or deal with a lot of stress at home. Doing an exercise routine such as yoga or an aerobics at the end of a busy day can put a person in a better mood. Exercise is a positive alternative to eating junk food or drinking alcohol after a stressful day since both of those activities can lead to weight gain and negative body image.

People who exercise on a regular basis may have higher self-esteem than individuals who do not.
People who exercise on a regular basis may have higher self-esteem than individuals who do not.

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