University Florida LogoIf you are among the people who convince yourself that exercise alone seems to make you look better and not fitness, then this news may be of your interest!

According to a latest study from the University of Florida, people who fail to accomplish workout target such as losing fat, gaining strength or boosting cardiovascular fitness seem to feel just as good about their bodies as compared to their more athletic counterparts. From nearly 57 publications, the study experts discovered conclusively that exercise seem to have polished up the way people see their bodies regardless of the actual benefits. However, the results appear to have varied.

“You would think that if you become more fit that you would experience greater improvements in terms of body image, but that’s not what we found. It may be that the requirements to receive the psychological benefits of exercise, including those relating to body image, differ substantially from the physical benefits,” says Heather Hausenblas, a UF exercise psychologist.

Hausenblas claimed that negative body image appears to have developed to almost epidemic proportions in the past 20 years. Additionally, more than 60 percent of adults in national studies were noted to have said that they don’t like the way their bodies look. She further stated that Americans appear to be spending billions of dollars each year for products intended to change their body size and shape along with diet pills and a variety of cosmetic procedures.

“Body dissatisfaction is a huge problem in our society and is related to all sorts of negative behavior including yo-yo dieting, smoking, taking steroids and undergoing cosmetic surgery. It affects men and women and all ages, starting with kids who are as young as five years old saying they don’t like how their bodies look,” elucidates Hausenblas.

It was observed that the psychological advantages of exercise have been less discovered, including the reduction of depression or confidence in body image in contrast to the well-researched and understood physical benefits The study findings revealed no dissimilarity in body image improvement between people who met the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines by exercising at least 30 minutes a day or five days a week and those who did not. Apparently, the guidelines are believed to be the minimum amount of exercise required in order to obtain the health related benefits of physical activity.

“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 continues.

In other results, the study was believed to have shown somewhat larger benefits from exercise in terms of improving body image for women in contrast to men.

“We believed the gap would be much bigger, but what could be coming into play is the rise of body image issues among men. We’re seeing more media portrayals of the ideal physique for men rather than the overriding emphasis on women we did in the past,” adds Hausenblas.

She was of the opinion that age has presented one more difference, with older people most likely to report improved body images from exercise. The gap may be elucidated by the older generation having more concerns about their body image as compared to young people who tend to exercise more.

“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,” claims Hausenblas.

Kathleen Martin Ginis, a kinesiology professor at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, and exercise expert stated that, “This is an important study because it shows that doing virtually any type of exercise, on a regular basis, can help people feel better about their bodies. With such a large segment of the population dissatisfied with their physiques, it’s encouraging to know that even short, frequent bouts of lower intensity exercise can improve body image.”

This study is believed to be the foremost one to have systematically examined the wide-ranging effects of exercise on body image by examining all intervention studies on the subject until June 2008.

The findings of the study also revealed that though the frequency of exercise mattered for improving body perceptions, there appear to have been no differences for the duration, intensity, length or type of exercise.

The findings of the study have been published in the Journal of Health Psychology.