Sex Roles, Vol. 53, Nos. 7/8, October 2005 (
Reasons for Exercise and Body Esteem: Men’s Responses
and Duane Hargreaves
In this study, we applied the construct of self-objectiﬁcation to men, speciﬁcally to examine
the role of reasons for exercise in men’s responses to objectiﬁcation. A questionnaire that
assessed self-objectiﬁcation, reasons for exercise, body esteem, and self-esteem was voluntar-
ily completed by 153 Australian participants between the ages of 18 and 35 years (82 men
and a comparison group of 71 women). Self-objectiﬁcation and appearance-related reasons
for exercise were signiﬁcantly negatively related to body esteem for both men and women.
Self-objectiﬁcation was also positively related to appearance-related reasons for exercise. The
latter was found to mediate the relationship between self-objectiﬁcation and body esteem for
both men and women. Men were just as likely as women to exercise for appearance-related
reasons. Together, the results suggest that objectiﬁcation may be sensibly applied to men and
that exercising for appearance-related reasons appears to exacerbate the negative impact that
self-objectiﬁcation has on both men’s and women’s esteem.
KEY WORDS: men; exercise; body esteem; self-objectiﬁcation.
Exercise is widely acknowledged to have a num-
ber of psychological and health beneﬁts, for exam-
ple, it reduces depression and stress and increases
self-esteem and general health (see Maltby & Day,
2001, for a review). However, such beneﬁts tend not
to be experienced by those individuals who are moti-
vated to exercise for appearance-related reasons. In
fact, exercising for weight loss, body tone, and attrac-
tiveness reasons has been shown to be related to dis-
turbed eating (McDonald & Thompson, 1992), body
dissatisfaction (Silberstein, Striegel-Moore, Timko,
& Rodin, 1988), reduced body esteem and self-
esteem (Strelan, Mehaffey, & Tiggemann, 2003),
and lowered psychological well-being (Maltby &
Day, 2001). Conversely, exercising for ﬁtness, health,
and enjoyment reasons has been found to be re-
lated to increased self-esteem, body satisfaction (e.g.,
McDonald & Thompson, 1992; Strelan et al., 2003;
Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, Australia.
University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at The Depart-
ment of Psychology, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Aus-
tralia, 5005; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tiggemann & Williamson, 2000), and general psy-
chological well-being (Maltby & Day, 2001).
Most studies indicate that men are less likely
than women to exercise for appearance-related rea-
sons (e.g., Silberstein et al., 1988; Tiggemann &
Williamson, 2000). This is not surprising, given that
women have traditionally been viewed as more
preoccupied with their appearance (Thompson,
Heinberg, Altabe, & Tantleff-Dunn, 1999). How-
ever, much evidence is emerging to show that men,
too, are becoming increasingly concerned about their
bodies (e.g., Luciano, 2001; Parks & Read, 1997;
Pope, Phillips, & Olivardia, 2000). For example, a
recent survey indicated that the percentage of US
men who express dissatisfaction with their bodies had
risen from 15% in 1972 to 43% in 1996 (Garner,
1997). The main aim of the present study was to ex-
amine the extent to which those men who are pre-
occupied with their appearance view exercise as a
means of addressing such concerns.
Understandably, much of the theorizing on the
antecedents of, and responses to, body dissatisfaction
have been oriented toward women. At present no
2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.