Researchers studied nearly 100 college-aged women who had social physique anxiety – a disorder in which someone chronically worries that others are critiquing his or her body. “Women who have this disorder usually are interested in exercise to improve their appearance, but an instructor who emphasizes physique during a workout may deter such students from coming back,” said Brian Focht, a study co-author and an assistant professor of health behavior and health promotion at Ohio State University.

Women in the study reported that they enjoyed a step-aerobics class more when the instructor focused on the health-related aspects of the workout, telling them how exercise will make them more fit. These same women were more likely to say that they would try a similar class in the future, compared to the women who were taught by an instructor who emphasized appearance by making comments about how the exercise would tone their legs or other body parts.

The participants were divided into two classes. In the classes that emphasized health over appearance, the instructor wore a loose-fitting t-shirt and gym shorts. She also sprinkled health-oriented comments throughout the session, such as “Work it, let’s get fit and healthy!” The instructor in the appearance-oriented classes wore tight-fitting aerobics. She made comments throughout the classes that drew attention to appearance, such as “Stand tall, you’ll look five pounds lighter” or “Work it, let’s get your legs toned so they look good!”

The participants in the health-oriented classes reported that they also enjoyed the workout more and would be more likely to take a similar class in the future. Focht and his colleagues were surprised to find that the presence of mirrors in the exercise room didn’t influence how the women felt during class.; Source: Ohio State University