Appearance vs. health motives for exercise and for weight loss

Lenny R. Vartanian, Christopher Wharton, Erica B. Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

39 Scopus citations


Objective: This study had three primary aims: (1) to investigate differences between restrained and unrestrained eaters in their reasons for exercise and their motives for losing weight; (2) to investigate the association of appearance and health motives for exercise and for losing weight with body image concerns; and (3) to determine whether appearance motives for exercise and for losing weight mediate the link between internalized societal standards of attractiveness and body image concerns. Design: Cross-sectional survey. Method: 205 women completed measures of dietary restraint, reasons for exercise, motivation for losing weight, internalization of societal standards of attractiveness, and body image concerns. Results: Unrestrained eaters were more motivated to exercise and to lose weight for health reasons than for appearance reasons, whereas restrained eaters were equally motivated by appearance and health reasons. Appearance-based motives for exercising and for losing weight were positively associated with body image concerns, whereas health-related reasons for exercise were negatively associated with body image concerns. Furthermore, in a multiple mediation analysis, appearance motives for weight loss mediated the relation between internalization of societal standards of attractiveness and body image concerns, but appearance reasons for exercise did not. Conclusion: These findings indicate that appearance-based motives for exercise and weight loss are associated with negative outcomes. Efforts to promote exercise and weight management should emphasize the health benefits rather than the implications for appearance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-256
Number of pages6
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2012



  • Dietary restraint
  • Exercise
  • Motivation
  • Weight loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology

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