Before and after body transformation pictures put people off exercising, study finds

Research aims to ‘challenge society’s focus on exercising for aesthetic transformations’

Saman Javed
Monday 10 October 2022 08:30 BST
Body transformation images can fuel body insecurities
Body transformation images can fuel body insecurities (Getty Images)

Before and after body transformation pictures can fuel body image insecurities and may not motivate people to exercise, new research suggests.

A study of 1,030 people, carried out by sportswear retailer Asics, found that 80 per cent of people are put off exercising after seeing such photographs, while 48 per cent said the images left them feeling insecure about their own body.

The research was published on Monday 10 October to coincide with World Mental Health Day and aims to “challenge society’s focus on exercising for aesthetic transformations”.

Of those surveyed, 53 per cent said they regularly feel insecure about the way they look.

The findings reflect previous research which found that while regular exercise helps people feel better about their bodies, this relationship is weaker in people who are primarily motivated by changing their body or losing weight.

In 2018, Weight Watchers announced it would move away from sharing transformations of its users out of fear that the images may lead to short-term yo-yo dieting.

“We’ve made the decision to lose the expression ‘before and after’, because our members’ journeys are so much more about then and now. We want to promote a journey of health, with no beginning, middle or end,” a spokesperson said at the time.

Alongside its study, Asics has enlisted celebrities including Love Island’s Dr Alex George and Motsi Mabuse to highlight the mental health benefits of exercise.

Photos for the campaign show each celebrity before and after 15 minutes and nine seconds of exercise, the length of time proven to lift mental state, Asics said.

Minimal physical differences between the images are intended to highlight that not all exercise transformations are visible and encourage exercise for the mental health benefits.

George commented: “I have been on a real journey with exercise and the reasons why I do it. When I was younger, I really used exercise as a weapon, to try and look thin, to look a certain way.

“When I went on Love Island a few years later, I was over-training and it wasn’t good for my mental health. Now, I’ve changed the way I view exercise and it’s really helped my mental health. I move for my mind rather than to look a certain way.”

Hayley Jarvis, head of physical activity at mental health charity Mind, said: “Mind is a firm believer in the power of movement, however small, to support better mental health. Our aim is to support more people to get active to help them to thrive.

“Our own research shows that many people are put off exercising because they feel self-conscious.

“The more we can do to remove the barriers to people enjoying the benefits of exercise, the better.”

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