Date of Award
Master of Social Science
Faculty of Business and Public Management
Dr Sue Colyer
Group fitness instructors work in an environment that promotes the often unattainable pursuit of an ideal body shape. The fitness centre often displays pictures of slim body shapes on the walls and sells goods and services that relate to weight loss and the improvement of the appearance. The instructors are part of this environment that promotes ideal body shapes, and they arc often seen as role models of health, fitness and slimness. It is possible that instructors arc under pressure to attain or maintain an ideal body shape, to be consistent with what their work environment represents. The purpose of this study was to explore workplace influences on the body perceptions of female group fitness instructors. This exploration gathered perceptions held by female group fitness instructors of their body perception and their work settings. Data were collected from female group fitness instructors working in and around Perth, Western Australia, using two methods. First, interviews with six female instructors explored body perception issues and workplace influence. Second, a survey based on interview results was conducted. to confirm the extent of instructors' views on workplace influences. Two hundred and nine questionnaires were distributed, with sixty-eight replies, a response rate of 32.5 percent. Most of the women had a positive body perception, and were satisfied with their body shapes and weight. Although satisfied. many stated they wished they could change certain body parts if they could, such as have a flatter abdominal area. There were several influences on body perception, the most interesting was the influence of the fitness industry. The women believed that their participants and their employers expected them to maintain a slim body shape in their role as an instructor. Although they felt that their employers did not mind overweight instructors. interestingly they also believed their employers favoured lean instructors. Some of the women stated that looking at and comparing themselves to other instructors also influenced their body perception, at times making them feel fat. The women stated that management practices did not largely influence their body perception. They believed that recruitment was not based on appearance, and that wearing uniforms of tight Lycra was beneficial to show their body movements efficiently. The selling of body improvement products at fitness centres did not appear to concern the women, most accepted their existence as a normal practice. The physical environment (large mirrors and pictures of slim body shapes) did not largely influence the body perception of the instructors. In fact, the majority of instructors liked the mirrors, as they were a teaching resource. The pictures of slim body shapes also inspired the instructors. Only a small number of instructors were negative towards the mirrors and pictures. The profile of the women in the study had results that indicated that the women engaged in large amounts of exercise. The average instructor taught over seven classes per week and also did an additional 6 to 7 hours of exercise per week in their own time. These figures indicate that instructors are exercising over 200 percent of the Australian recommended guidelines. This study suggests that the physical environment does not largely influence the body perception of female group fitness instructors. This study does suggest, however, that female instructors maintain or attain an ideal body shape in an effort to live up to expectations of others, such as employers, participants and other instructors. They do this by engaging in large amounts of exercise and attention to their diet regime.
Leslie, L. (2002). Body perceptions of Western Australian female group fitness instructors and the influence of the workplace. Retrieved from http://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses/712