Linking Media with Fitness Perceptions: A Study on the Affect of Media on Fitness
and Body Image

Abstract

This research examined the media and how it affects fitness and body image.
This was assessed by collecting data from surveys taken by three groups of ten
high school students, five of each sex. Two of the three groups were exposed to
different media packages, one depicted images of unnaturally thin individuals,
the other depicted athletic figures, while the third group was exposed to no
prior data. The results indicate the students attitudes towards social fitness
views and self-acceptance. It was my hypothesis that a correlation between
media and the fitness concept will be found but the idea of a personal body
image will remain fixed as body image is a determined part of one\'s psyche. A
significant correlation was discovered between those who viewed the thin package
and their attitudes on social fitness. However a low score in the self-
acceptance scale in all three groups suggests a low self-concept within all
participants. This supports my statement that there would be a connection
between the fitness concept and the media packages as well as a constant self-
concept maintained by all participants.

In assessing personal attitudes it is often important to measure not only what
an individual feels towards others but also his/herself. Prior research
indicates this is especially important when measuring attitudes towards physical
issues. It has been found that opposing views may be held simultaneously by
individuals in regards to themselves and others. Also concern for how a
response will reflect upon his/herself may negate an individual expressing his
or her true attitudes. This research sought to assess the attitudes of high
school students towards fitness and body image in the presence of different
physical media icons. By monitoring the individuals response to both a third
person scale and a personal scale, true attitudes can be assumed. In this study,
the different groups were the independent variable, here in described as Group A,
those exposed to the thin images, Group B, those exposed to athletic images, and
Group C, those exposed to no images or the control group, whereas the groups
score was the dependent variable. The surveys were distributed to thirty
students, ten in each group, five of each sex. The dependent variable, in the
Social Fitness Attitudes Scale, reflects the individuals attitude towards
fitness in society and in a dating atmosphere. The higher the individuals score
the more they are influenced by society, with a score of 46 being the accepted
indication of society influence. In the Self Acceptance Scale, the lower the
individuals score the lower their self concept with scores between 36-110
indicating low self acceptance, 111-150 average self acceptance, and 151-
indicating high self acceptance. Throughout the use of both a general survey
and a specific survey, true attitudes of students towards fitness and body
image in the light of society have been recorded.

Methods

Participants

Participants of this study were students of F.J. Brennan High School.
For the purposes of this study, 30 participants were randomly chosen, creating 3
groups of 10 with 5 members of each sex. Consent was obtained from the
individual before being surveyed. Anonymity of the participants was maintained
by using no identifying information to make the comparisons.

Measures

The study employed the use of 2 surveys and 1 sheet of non identifying
information. The first survey, Social Fitness Attitudes Scale, was used to
study the individuals views on fitness in society and in a dating atmosphere.
The second survey, Self Acceptance Scale, was used to illustrate the
participants personal views on confidence in regards to others. These were
followed by a brief sheet which asked for optional statistical information such
as age and fitness status.

Procedure

Prior to the testing Group A was exposed to a package of images
reinforcing a thin body, Group B was exposed to a package of images which
reinforced an athletic build, whereas Group C was exposed to no such packages at
any time during the survey. Once the testing was complete each participant was
debriefed as to what the data would be used for and what each survey would
reflect. With the surveys scored using their assigned keys computer analysis
was used to obtain an Independent Sample t Test.

Results

Each survey was scored with its assigned scoring key, as depicted in
Psychology for Living. The scores revealed by both Groups A and B show
attitudes toward fitness influenced by society, A- t (18) = -4.330, p > 0.05, B-
t (18) = -1.732, p > 0.05, with Group A scoring 50 and Group B scoring a 47 out
of a possible 54 with