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PLoS One. 2013 Apr 22;8(4):e61894. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0061894. Print 2013.

Effects of reading health and appearance exercise magazine articles on perceptions of attractiveness and reasons for exercise.

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  • 1Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.



To examine the effects of reading exercise-related magazine articles (health, appearance, or control) and the moderating effects of exercise self-identity on reasons for exercise and perceptions of attractiveness, among women in first year university. An additional purpose was to use a thought listing technique, the results of which were examined for evidence of internalization of the exercise-related messages.


Female students in their first year of studies between September 2010 and April 2011 (N = 173; mean age = 19.31 years, mean body mass index = 22.01).


Participants read a health, appearance, or control article, listed thoughts, and completed questionnaires measuring reasons for exercising, physical self-perception, and exercise self-identity.


Participants in the health condition rated exercise for health significantly higher than control condition participants. Participants with high exercise self-identity rated attractiveness as a reason for exercising significantly higher than low exercise self-identity participants in both the health and appearance conditions. Participants with higher internalization scores (i.e., accepted societal norms of appearance) reported exercising for attractiveness reasons more so than participants with lower internalization scores.


The good news is that health messages may be influential and result in wanting to exercise for health purposes. However, exercising for attractiveness was rated highly by participants with high exercise identity who read either the health or appearance articles. Health and appearance are not necessarily distinct concepts for female undergraduate students and the media may influence cited reasons for exercise.

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