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Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004 Mar;36(3):468-74.

Attitudes toward obese individuals among exercise science students.

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  • 1Centers for Integrated Health Research, The Cooper Institute, Dallas, TX 75230, USA.



The purpose of this research was to evaluate attitudes toward obese individuals and to identify personal characteristics associated with antifat bias among students majoring in exercise science.


Undergraduate (N = 136) and graduate (N = 110) students (mean age 23.2 yr, 55% male, 77% Caucasian) completed a series of questionnaires to assess attitudes toward obese individuals. Instruments included the Implicit Association Test (IAT), a timed self-report assessment that measures automatic attitudes and stereotypes toward obese persons through word categorizations (good vs bad; motivated vs lazy), and the Antifat Attitudes Test (AFAT), a self-report instrument that measures negative beliefs and attitudes toward obese individuals. Participants also completed a general demographic questionnaire.


A strong bias was found for implicit measures including good versus bad attitude (P < 0.0001) and motivated versus lazy stereotype (P < 0.0001). Characteristics associated with greater bad bias included being female, Caucasian, and growing up in a less populated area (P < 0.05). Belief in greater personal responsibility for obesity was associated with stronger lazy bias (P < 0.01). On the AFAT self-report measure, belief in less personal responsibility for obesity, positive family history of obesity, and having an obese friend were associated with lower antifat scores (P < 0.05).


These results suggest that students in the field of exercise science possess negative associations and bias toward obese individuals. These findings have important implications for health promotion, as antifat bias and weight discrimination among exercise professionals may further contribute to unhealthy lifestyle behaviors and reduced quality of life for many obese individuals who are at high risk for chronic disease.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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