Don't stop the music: The effects of appearance-focused music lyrics on body image during exercise


Viewing music videos emphasizing the thin ideal female body has been shown to have a negative impact on body image in young women, including increased body dissatisfaction, social comparisons and body size discrepancies. However, it is unclear whether the changes in body image outcomes are due to the highly objectified images of women representing the thin ideal, or the lyrics of the songs. This study aimed to explore the effects of music lyrics on body image during exercise in physically active female university students. A repeated measure design was used; participants participated in two sessions in which they were asked to walk or run for 30 minutes while listening to music. In one condition, the music lyrics mentioned appearance, objectified the female body, or referenced the thin ideal. In the other condition, the lyrics did not refer to appearance at all. Participants completed state measures of mood, body image, self-objectification and body appreciation prior to and following their walk/run. Results indicated a statistically significant time effect (all ps < 0.05) for all outcomes except self-objectification, with women reporting feeling more confident, physically attractive, appreciative of their body and happier and feeling less fat, anxious, depressed and angry from pre- to post-exercise following both conditions. This study highlights the positive effects exercise has on body image and mood outcomes and suggests that exercise may negate the possible negative effects of objectifying lyrics. Results from this study suggest that appearance-focused music lyrics may not be harmful to body image in exercise settings.