Relationship between sport type and body image of female athletes

Maria Christina Kosteli, J L Van Raalte, B W Brewer, A E Cornelius

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Introduction. Research suggests that sport involvement enhances body image [1]. Research also indicates that athletes involved in certain sports, such as gymnastics and distance running, are at risk for body image disturbances [2]. Aim of the Study. The purpose of this research was to explore this apparent paradox, that physical activity enhances body image but athletes in certain sports may be at risk for body image concerns. Material and Methods. The sport and societal attractiveness body image ideals of female long distance runners (n = 21) and throwers (n = 18) were assessed via questionnaires, line drawings, and digital body image software. Results. Consistent with social comparison theory, long distance runners were more satisfied with their bodies than were throwers when considering societal attractiveness ideals. Throwers, however, were more satisfied with their bodies than were distance runners when considering sport ideals. When considering body image without regard to the different body ideals, distance runners reported a more favorable body image overall than did throwers. Conclusions. These results suggest that complex factors affect the body image of women athletes. With regard to body image measurement, digital body image software may be more sensitive than line drawings in detecting predicted relationships.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-72
JournalTrends in Sport Sciences
Issue number2
Early online date31 Oct 2014
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 Oct 2014


  • body schema
  • ideal body mass
  • track and field
  • thrower
  • software


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