Picture this: Using photographs to describe the relationship between physical activity and body image in university women


Body image can be conceptualized as a multifaceted construct involving individuals' perceptions, cognitions, and behaviours related to their bodies' appearance and function. While there is generally a positive relationship between physical activity and body image, this is not always the case in some contexts or for some individuals; thus, a variety of factors can impact whether physical activity is associated with more or less positive and negative body image. The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between body image (positive and negative) and physical activity in university women. A total of 15 participants completed a short demographics questionnaire package and took up to 10 photographs showing how physical activity is related to their body image. Then the participants completed a one-on-one interview about their photographs. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed for data analysis. Thematic analysis was used to analyze the data with four main themes emerging: (1) motives for physical activity (2) negotiating femininity (3) embodiment vs. self-objectification and (4) neoliberalism and self-blame. Thus, for young women, the relationship between physical activity and body image is complex, with both positive and negative aspects. However, motives for physical activity appear to be highly influential to their experiences.