The relationship between weight stigma, physical appearance concerns, and enjoyment and tendency to avoid physical activity and sport

Nadia Bevan, Kerry S. O’Brien, Chung Ying Lin, Janet D. Latner, Brian Vandenberg, Ruth Jeanes, Rebecca M. Puhl, I. Hua Chen, Simon Moss, Georgia Rush

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Participation in physical activity and sport is on the decline and there is a poor understanding of the psychosocial factors that contribute to people’s reluctance to participate. We examined whether there were relationships between factors such as weight stigma, weight bias internalization, appearance evaluation, and fears of negative appearance evaluations, and enjoyment and avoidance of physical activity and sport. Undergraduate students (N = 579) completed a survey assessing demographics, and the variables described above. In hierarchal multivariate regression models, weight stigma (β = −0.16, p < 0.001), appearance evaluation (β = 0.19, p = 0.001), and weight bias internalization (β = −0.19, p = 0.003) were associated with lower enjoyment of physical activity and sport. Weight stigma (β = 0.46, p = 0.001), weight bias internalization (β = 0.42, p = 0.001), and fear of negative appearance evaluations (β = 0.16, p = 0.000) were also significantly associated with the tendency to avoid physical activity and sport. Serial mediation analysis showed the relationship between weight stigma and enjoyment of physical activity and sport was through appearance evaluation and weight bias internalization (indirect effect = −0.007, SE = 0.002, 95% CI = −0.01, −0.02). Similarly, the relationship between weight stigma and avoidance of physical activity and sport was through weight bias internalization and fear of negative appearance evaluations (indirect effect = 0.11, SE = 0.03, 95% CI = 0.05, 0.16). These results suggest that weight stigma and concerns about one’s physical appearance influence people’s enjoyment and reasoning for avoiding physical activity and sport. Research is needed to identify ways to reduce body-related stigma and increase enjoyment and participation in physical activity and sport.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9957
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume18
Issue number19
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021

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