VERMILLION, S.D. – A University of South Dakota School of Education professor has published research about the stigma of body size in sport and exercise settings.
Drew Pickett, Ph.D., professor of kinesiology and sport management, published research in the Journal of Applied Sport Management that indicates both your own body size and the body size of your fitness instructor influence the extent to which you identify as a physically active individual which impacts the likelihood of future exercise.
According to Pickett, “Unfortunately, we see very little body diversity represented in fitness settings–particularly among staff members. As a culture, we expect our fitness instructors to be thin. But, when we don’t see people who look like us, with a wide variety of bodies, a space can feel very exclusive.”
Specifically studying yoga, the researchers assigned participants video instruction by a larger-bodied or thin instructor. Self-identified overweight yoga participants identified better with the exercise when their instructor was also larger, and noticeably declined with a thin instructor.
“In our research, we’re finding that marginalized people look for inclusive signals, like seeing other larger-bodied people in the space, before stepping in the door. People are more likely to participate, and experience the health benefits of regular physical activity, if they feel like they’ll belong,” said Pickett.