USD Kinesiology and Sport Management Professor Finds Ways to Make Fitness Setting More Inclusive for all Body Types

Photo of Drew Pickett. Professor Drew Pickett has published research in the Journal of Applied Sport Management.

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.

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USD's School of Education is transformative in preparing students both inside and outside the classroom. Its research- and practitioner-based programs train future educators, counselors, leaders, fitness and sport-related professionals for successful careers. The school focuses on a comprehensive learning experience, lifelong learning and developing professionals grounded in best practice. The school’s divisions include counseling and psychology, curriculum and instruction, educational leadership, and kinesiology and sport management.

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Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 205 undergraduate and 73 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 17:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 17 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.

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