Exercise Your Body Image Issues Away

Just one 30-minute bout of exercise makes women feel stronger and thinner, according to a new study.

Most of us walk out of the gym/studio/training field feeling two things: exhausted because we pushed ourselves hard, and happy because we know we did the right thing for our health. The endorphin rush induced by exercise can boost your mood for hours.

According to a new study from the University of British Columbia, exercise can actually help to improve your body image and perception of yourself. Even just one workout (30 minutes, no more) is enough to help you feel fitter and happier.

The Canadian researchers gathered women and divided them into two groups: a control group that sat and read for 30 minutes, and the experimental group that performed 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise.

When asked to rate their body image and self-perceptions of their physique, the women who performed the exercise showed significant improvements in their ratings over the women who didn’t. The effect lasted for up to 20 minutes after the workout ended. And it wasn’t a mood-related change, as the researchers went on to establish. Thanks to the workout, the women perceived themselves as slimmer and stronger.

Such a simple thing, exercise, but it can lead to such a drastic improvement in our body image.

Considering how common body image issues are in the modern day and age—91% of women are unhappy with their bodies—this discovery is truly an important one. Though the self-esteem improving benefits may be short-term, they are very visible.

Exercise is empowering, and it helps you to feel better about yourself. Not only does it flood your body with endorphins, feel-good chemicals, but it raises your body image. Though it’s a placebo effect, it’s a positive one that can lead to improved happiness and well-being.

“Women, in general, have a tendency to feel negative about their bodies,” says study senior author Kathleen Martin Ginis, professor in UBC Okanagan’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences. “This is a concern because poor body image can have harmful implications for a woman’s psychological and physical health including increased risk for low self-esteem, depression and for eating disorders. This study indicates exercise can have an immediate positive effect.”

“We think that the feelings of strength and empowerment women achieve post exercise, stimulate an improved internal dialogue,” says Martin Ginis. “This, in turn, should generate positive thoughts and feelings about their bodies which may replace the all too common negative ones.”


1. Lauren E. Salci, Kathleen A. Martin Ginis. “Acute effects of exercise on women with pre-existing body image concerns: A test of potential mediators.” Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 2017; 31: 113.