Moving towards a favorable image: The self-presentational benefits of exercise and physical activity


Magnus Lindwall, School of Social and Health Sciences, Halmstad University, SE-301 18 Halmstad, Sweden. Tel: +46-35-16 76 52; fax: +46-35-16 72 64; e-mail:


The purpose of this study was to investigate the exercise stereotype phenomenon and the moderating effects of exerciser impression motivation and construction on this stereotype in a sample of 176 female and 96 male Swedish university students. The participants read a description of one of the following female targets: a typical exerciser, an active living target, an excessive exerciser, a non-exerciser, or a control target, and then rated these targets on 12 personality (e.g., lazy–hard worker, dependent–independent) and 8 physical (e.g., scrawny–muscular, sick–healthy) dimensions. They also completed the Self Presentation in Exercise Questionnaire, measuring motivation to self-present as an exerciser and the propensity to construct the image of an exerciser. MANCOVAs revealed a significant main effect for both personality and physical attributes (p < 0.05). In general, the typical exerciser and active living targets received the most favorable ratings, especially on the physical attributes, whereas the excessive exerciser obtained the least positive ratings. Exerciser impression motivation moderated the exercise status/rating relationship for the physical attributes only. Differences between Swedish and North American students’ impressions of exercisers and non-exercisers are discussed.