Exercising the self : On the Role of Exercise, Gender and Culture in Physical Self-Perceptions
Sammanfattning: In modern society, individuals constantly pass judgments on their own body and physical competence as well as that of other people. All too often, the verdict is less favourable. For the person, these physical self-perceptions (PSP) may negatively affect global self-esteem, identity, and general mental well being. The overall aim of this thesis is to examine primarily the role that exercise, but also the roles that gender and culture, play in the formation of PSP. In Study I, using confirmatory factor analyses, strong support for the validity of a first-order, and a second-order hierarchical and multidimensional model of the Physical Self-Perception Profile (PSPP: Fox & Corbin, 1989) was found across three national samples (Great Britain, Sweden and Turkey) of university students. Cross-cultural differences were detected, with the British sample demonstrating higher latent means on all PSPP subdomains except for the physical condition subdomain (Condition), than the Swedish and Turkish samples. In Study II, a higher self-reported exercise frequency was associated with more positive PSP (in particular for Condition) and more importance attributed to PSP in Swedish university students. Males demonstrated higher overall PSPP-scores than females. In Study III, a true-experimental design with randomisation into an intervention and a control group was adopted. Strong support for the effects of an empowerment-based exercise intervention programme on PSP and social physique anxiety (SPA) over six months for adolescent girls was found. The relations of exercise, gender and culture with PSP, SPA and self-esteem are discussed from the standpoints of a variety of theoretical models (the EXSEM-model), and frameworks (self-presentation and objectification theory). The two theories of self-enhancement and skill-development are examined with regard to the direction of the exercise-physical self relationship and motivation for exercise. Arguments for the relevance of exercise and PSP for practitioners in promoting general mental well-being and preventing modern-day diseases are outlined.
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