Relationships among body-self relations, exercise involvement, and exercise clothing attitude for women in regular exercise programs

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Virginia Tech

American females are socialized from birth to believe that physical attractiveness is culturally valued (Bernscheild, Walster, & Bohrnstedt, 1973). It also has been determined that body image concerns are strong motivators of dieting and exercising behaviors and may affect clothing attitudes (Cash & Hicks, 1990; Cash, Novy, & Grant, 1993). Body-self relations is a self-attitude composed of affective, cognitive, and behavior dispositions toward one’s body. Since physical attractiveness is highly valued and the media focus on a young and thin body as an important factor of physical attractiveness (Moriarty & Moriarty, 1988), individuals may increase exercise involvement to reach an ideal body image. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships among body-self relations, level of exercise involvement, and exercise clothing attitude for women in regular exercise programs.

Subjects were women members of four different aerobic exercise programs in Blacksburg, Virginia. A questionnaire regarding body-self relations, exercise involvement, exercise clothing attitude, and demographics was developed and pilot tested.

Body image was measured with two domains of the Multidimensional Body-Self Relations Questionnaire: appearance and physical fitness. Exercise involvement was used as the indicator of the time and effort devoted to altering or forming one’s appearance through exercise. Exercise clothing attitude was measured by beliefs toward three black-and-white line drawings representing different amounts of body coverage of the exercise clothing style images on a continuum of high to low body coverage. Relationships among the variables were analyzed statistically using Kendall‘s Tau and multiple regression. Validity and reliability of the questionnaire were analyzed with factor analysis and Cronbach’s alpha.

The results imply the women subjects express greater concern for physical competence than with physical attractiveness. That is, being "in shape" or athletically active and competent appear to have a greater importance than engaging in grooming behaviors. Results also favor the notion that appearance management behavior (in this case, level of exercise involvement) is related to body-self relations, and consequently, the self-concept. The findings also support related research about congruence between the symbolic image of a garment and an individual’s self-concept. Thus, the exercising subject’s body-self relations can play an important role in clothing attitude.