DIFFERING LEVELS OF SELF-ESTEEM IN WOMEN: IS REGULAR PHYSICAL EXERCISE A CONTRIBUTING FACTOR?
University of Wales Institute Cardiff
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This study explored the reasons women held when choosing to participate in regular physical activity or not, and the impact those reasons had on the various sub-domains which make up the global construct self-esteem. A total of 6 females, gathered from a local community centre in Cardiff containing a gym and a library, were involved in the study. Subjects were asked to participate in a semi-structured interview concerning exercise participation, exercise motives, and self-perceptions related to body attractiveness, sport competence, physical condition and strength. Results of the content analysis revealed visible differences in the self-perceptions of all sub-domains between exercisers and non-exercisers. General findings were consistent with previous research to the extent that; individuals who reported having the highest self-esteem scores were those that carried out regular physical activity. The main findings reported self-perceptions of body attractiveness as the most prominent factor affecting individual decisions to carry out physical activity or not. All subjects, regardless of exercise participation, placed a large value on physical appearance; the difference being, exercisers had positive self-perceptions of this subscale and were not affected by external factors, such as other people’s perceptions; where as non-exercisers allowed other people’s perceptions to affect their decision to not exercise. Although the results only allow tentative conclusions to be drawn due to the exploratory nature of the study, the practical implications may be of interest to gym instructors and health education practitioners, in helping them change the focus they place on carrying out physical activity for physical appearance reasons, to more functional reasons such as fitness and enjoyment; in order to encourage more women to participate in regular physical exercise, and to also provide women with the knowledge and understanding of healthy weight maintenance through diet and exercise. In conclusion, future exercise and self-esteem research should consider the impact of external factors such as other people and exercise environment on individual self-perceptions, in order to gain a more in-depth understanding of the exercise and self-esteem relationship.
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