How Exercise Could Improve Your Body Image

By far, one of the most common reasons that people exercise is to improve their body image. Whether someone is looking to lose weight, develop muscle or just feel stronger and more capable, exercise and confidence typically coexist. Unfortunately, real, lasting changes in body composition can take weeks or even months to accomplish. And this often leaves people feeling frustrated.

Thankfully, though, a solid workout could actually have an immediate positive effect on your body image and confidence, according to a new study from the University of British Columbia. What did the researchers find and how can these insights help you?

Moving vs. Sitting

In a fairly simple test, the scientists enlisted 60 young women who all exercised regularly and had body image concerns. These women were then separated into two groups: the first group worked out for 30 minutes, while the second group just sat and read.

After their assigned activity, the women were asked a serious of questions designed to assess both their body image and how strong they felt. Even though nothing had actually changed about their bodies, the women who exercised felt stronger, thinner, and generally more confident than those who read.

Why It Matters

But what practical value does this study have for you?

First, it highlights an immediate and oft-ignored benefit of exercise: a boost in confidence. So while it might take some time before you start to see the physical alterations that you’re looking for, some time in the gym could at least make you feel better about how you look.

And that increase in confidence could have all sorts of other benefits. People have, for a very long time, used exercise as a way to get themselves psyched for a performance, test, job interview, or some other potentially stressful event. And this study could lend some support to this practice.

Finally, it’s important to remember that this little pick-me-up happens each time you exercise. Which means that if you make a habit of regular exercise, you are also building this sort of positive self-talk into your schedule, potentially improving your confidence and outlook over the long-term.