Physique Attitudes and Self-Presentational Concerns: Exploratory Interviews with Female Group Aerobic Exercisers and Instructors Page: 189
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Sex Roles, Vol. 54, Nos. 3/4, February 2006 (@ 2006)
Physique Attitudes and Self-Presentational Concerns:
Exploratory Interviews with Female Group
Aerobic Exercisers and Instructors
Christy Greenleaf,'3 Rosemary McGreer,2 and Heather Parham1
The purpose of this study was to explore physique attitudes and self-presentational concerns
among women who regularly participate in or instruct group aerobic classes. We were inter-
ested in conceptualizations of the ideal body, self-presentational concerns, and the influence
of instructors in the group aerobics context. Five instructors and 6 exercisers participated in
semi-structured interviews. Two higher order themes were identified from the interview data:
(a) perceived body ideals and (b) body image experiences in the group aerobics context. Par-
ticipants described the ideal body as lean and toned and attainable, but cautioned that being
too muscular was unattractive and should be avoided. Exercisers experienced heightened
self-presentation during aerobics more than the instructors did. Both exercisers and instruc-
tors thought that instructors should serve as body role models.
KEY WORDS: social physique anxiety; females; exercise.
The current sociocultural body ideal for women
is lean, thin, and toned (Hausenblas, Brewer, &
VanRaalte, 2004; Markula, 1995), yet for most
women this ideal is quite unrealistic. Throughout
history, women have gone to great lengths in at-
tempting to move their bodies closer to the ideal.
Plastic surgery, often the means of achieving im-
proved looks in popular television programs, is only
one method used to mold bodies into the "proper"
form (Lindeman, 1999; Sarwer, Magee, & Crerand,
2004). More often, women engage in dieting and
exercise behaviors aimed at losing weight (specifi-
cally fat) and toning their bodies, with the ultimate
goal of improved appearance (Davis & Cowles, 1991;
Davis, Fox, Brewer, & Ratusny, 1995; Frederick
& Shaw, 1995; Imm & Pruitt, 1991). Maguire and
Mansfield (1998) noted that aerobics is a traditionally
feminine activity and hypothesized that "...women
1University of North Texas, Denton, Texas.
2YMCA, Alief, Texas.
3To whom correspondence should be addressed at KHPR
Department, University of North Texas, P.O. Box 310769,
Denton, Texas 76203-0769; e-mail: email@example.com.
dominate the 'aerobics' class to sculpt slim, lithe,
'feminine' bodies" (p. 112). It is not surprising, then,
that group aerobics is a popular mode of exercise
for women (National Sporting Goods Association,
Group aerobics classes often put women's bod-
ies on display as works in progress in an environ-
ment that Loland (2000) called a "culture of display"
(p. 121). Women are socialized to believe that there
is always room to improve their physique and that ex-
ercise is a means to the socially desirable physique. In
the present study, we were interested in understand-
ing the physique attitudes and self-presentational
concerns of women who regularly participate in this
"culture of display." Specifically, we used a self-
presentational framework (Leary, 1992) to explore
the perceptions of female group aerobics exercisers
and instructors. Self-presentation refers to the pro-
cesses of monitoring and controlling how one is per-
ceived and evaluated by others, with the goal of cre-
ating a good impression (Leary, 1992). Leary (1996)
has suggested that self-presentational behaviors re-
sult from an interaction of personal and situational
characteristics, thus a self-presentational framework
0360-0025/06/0200-0189/0 C 2006 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.
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Greenleaf, Christy; McGreer, Rosemary & Parham, Heather. Physique Attitudes and Self-Presentational Concerns: Exploratory Interviews with Female Group Aerobic Exercisers and Instructors, article, February 2006; [New York, New York]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc31089/m1/1/: accessed March 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Education.