Exerciser Self-Image and Indices of Health-Related Fitness


J. Mark Van Ness: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5902-8735

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Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise


Health, Exercise, and Sport Sciences Department







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Self-belief about exercise strongly influences people’s exercise behavior. This relationship may have significant impact on health-related physical fitness and help to address the exercise behavior deficit in the U.S. However, it is not known if self-belief about exercise significantly impacts physical fitness levels. The purpose of this study was to identify self-beliefs about exercise and determine if these beliefs influence behaviors and result in greater levels of physical fitness. Exercise self-schema theory is a social cognitive psychological theory that is uniquely capable at explaining and predicting chronic exercise behaviors. It posits that established self-images are based on cognitive generalizations about the “self” creates a very powerful and prevailing impetus to behave in ways that correspond with established self-images. Preliminary research has found self-images (also called self-schemas) concerning exercise to more reliably predict both exercise intention and reported exercise behavior better than beliefs concerning exercise alone. In the present study we sought to evaluate whether exercise self-schema theory could differentiate levels of health-related physical fitness in college students. We also included gender as an independent variable to investigate gender-specific behavioral predictability of the theory. The results of this study revealed a significant link between exercise self-schema classification and indices of health-related physical fitness. This link existed independent of gender. In this study exerciser schematics were found to be significantly more physically fit, leaner, and to exercise at significantly greater frequency than individuals not classified as exerciser schematics. These findings provide preliminary evidence that exerciser self-schema is positively associated with increased physical fitness. These results could inform strategies oriented toward modifying exercise behaviors to reduce hypokinetic risk factors for disease.


ACSM annual Meeting, San Diego, CA May 24-28, 2015.

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