Need a little confidence boost? Grab your sneakers.
A small study published this month in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise found that just 30 minutes of exercise can have a positive affect on a woman's body image. Women felt both slimmer and stronger immediately after they finished their workout and the feeling lasted for at least 20 minutes post-workout.
Researchers gathered 75 college-aged women who indicated they were unhappy with their appearances in order to test exercise's effect on body acceptance. The participants were given assessments that measured how the volunteers body measurements, their exercise habits, energy levels and stress. The questionnaire also asked about the women's confidence with their exercise abilities, how they felt about their appearances and how much they enjoyed working out.
Half of the participants were then instructed to perform vigorous exercise for 30 minutes on a stationary bike. The other half of the group sat in a room reading a National Geographic magazine. After the time was up, they each repeated the questionnaire immediately after the workout and again 20 minutes later.
The women who worked out showed clear signs of improved body image in both questionnaires, while those who didn't remained flat. The authors theorize that the positive effect may last beyond the 20 minutes, but didn't test for that. The results could imply that exercisers have better self images, regardless of if there's any actual change in their physical appearance.
That said, the study size is small, for starters, so it's hard to determine whether this would apply to a larger population. Researchers also only used participants who were of average weight with no major medical problems. It's unclear if the same outcome would occur with women who may be overweight or experiencing a health condition.
But the study adds to a strong body of research that suggests exercise can influence a person's mental outlook for the better. Previous studies show that physical activity can boost a person's mood and make them feel happier overall.
So, go on and work out and then strut out. It's worth a try, right?