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Summary: According to researchers, for many men, a hidden fer of being fat is driving their gym attendance due to feelings of shame rather than a desire to build muscle.
Source: University of Lincoln.
Men’s hidden fears about body fat are fuelling gym attendance motivated by feelings of guilt and shame rather than a desire to build muscle, new research has shown.
Psychology researchers from the UK and Australia discovered that while male attitudes towards muscle or body mass index (BMI) did not predict how frequently they would attend the gym, their perceptions of body fat did.
The researchers found that men worried about body fat were more likely than others to undertake spontaneous, unplanned work-outs – and warned that these ‘sporadic’ exercise patterns tend to be difficult to sustain over time.
The findings raise questions over the effect portrayals of the ‘ideal body’ online and in the media have on healthy exercise behaviours in an era of ‘selfies’. This has important real-life implications for health and exercise professionals and their intervention programmes, the researchers suggest.
The study is the first of its kind to examine men’s body attitudes alongside both their conscious (explicit) and non-conscious (implicit) motivations for attending the gym. The findings could help health and fitness professionals improve gym attendance in the long-term by focusing on pro-active goal-setting and personal autonomy, rather than body image.
The study was carried out by Dr David Keatley from the School of Psychology at the University of Lincoln, UK, and Kim Caudwell from Curtin University, Australia.
Dr Keatley, a specialist in the study of complex patterns of behaviour and motivation, said: “Coaches, trainers, and even ‘gym buddies’ need to be aware of individuals’ motivations and reasons for attending a gym. Spontaneous gym goers are more likely to be motivated by guilt, shame or pressure, so it’s important to turn this around and place a focus on positive feelings of achievement and pride, fostering a long-term healthier behaviour change.
“Anyone can be affected by what they see online, the social cues images can give, and the popular conceptions of an ‘ideal body image’. With the recent growth of ‘selfies’ and the return of muscle-bound Hollywood hero icons like Vin Diesel and Hugh Jackman, there’s a real risk that males may be more influenced to attend the gym more regularly and workout to a point where it becomes dangerous or detracts from their wellbeing.
“This study is important in showing that whilst they may be more unlikely to admit it, body dissatisfaction and dysmorphia can and do affect males as well as females, and therefore should be investigated fully.”
To assess their motivations for exercising, 100 men completed a self-report questionnaire and a second test which evaluated their non-conscious motivation by measuring how long it took them to associate particular words with themselves.
All participants had a slightly elevated BMI and said they work out for around an hour, two or three times a week. Nearly 60 per cent of the men listed health and fitness as their primary reason for attending a gym or fitness activity. Just 16 per cent labelled appearance or amateur body building as their motivation, and eight per cent said training or competing was their main focus.
Participants responded to a series of statements about body image, for example “seeing my reflection makes me feel bad about my body fat and muscularity”. They also evaluated a series of statements about their motivation, such as “I feel under pressure to exercise or work out regularly from people I know well”. These were scored on a scale from one to four, with one being not very true and four being very true.
To examine hidden, non-conscious motivations, the researchers also asked participants to complete an Implicit Association Test (IAT), a task designed to assess automatic associations. It paired positive and negative feelings about exercising, such as ‘spontaneous’ and ‘willing’ or ‘restricted’ and ‘forced’, with words relating to the self and others, such as ‘me’ and ‘mine’ or ‘they’ and ‘theirs’.
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Source: Laura Jones – University of Lincoln Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain. Original Research: Abstract for “The Effect of Men’s Body Attitudes and Motivation for Gym Attendance” by Caudwell, Kim M.; and Keatley, David A. in Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Published online September 2016 doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000001344
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[cbtabs][cbtab title=”MLA”]University of Lincoln “Men’s Hidden Body Fat Fears Fueling Gym Attendance.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 10 September 2016. <https://neurosciencenews.com/men-gym-fat-fear-5008/>.[/cbtab][cbtab title=”APA”]University of Lincoln (2016, September 10). Men’s Hidden Body Fat Fears Fueling Gym Attendance. NeuroscienceNew. Retrieved September 10, 2016 from https://neurosciencenews.com/men-gym-fat-fear-5008/[/cbtab][cbtab title=”Chicago”]University of Lincoln “Men’s Hidden Body Fat Fears Fueling Gym Attendance.” https://neurosciencenews.com/men-gym-fat-fear-5008/ (accessed September 10, 2016).[/cbtab][/cbtabs]
The Effect of Men’s Body Attitudes and Motivation for Gym Attendance
The current study integrates men’s body attitudes with implicitly and explicitly measured motivation to investigate the role of these factors in predicting gym attendance. Male participants (N = 99) who regularly attended a gym were recruited to participate in an online questionnaire. Participants completed implicit and explicit measures of motivation, explicitly measured men’s body attitudes, and reported the average number of gym visits per week. Attitudes related to body fat and explicitly measured autonomous motivation significantly predicted typical gym attendance. Implicitly measured motivation significantly and negatively predicted gym attendance. Results indicate some support for a dual-systems account of gym attendance. Men’s body attitudes and autonomous motivation influences gym attendance; however, implicitly measured motivation showed antagonistic effects. Although individuals may explicitly state their autonomous motivation for gym attendance, attendance may also be influenced at the explicit level. Health and fitness professionals may improve gym attendance by focusing on people’s reasons for attending a gym, facilitating autonomous motivation in clients, and minimizing the influence of controlled reasons for exercise.
“The Effect of Men’s Body Attitudes and Motivation for Gym Attendance” by Caudwell, Kim M.; and Keatley, David A. in Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Published online September 2016 doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000001344
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