• Jessica Nguyen

The Effect of Sports on Body Image

By Chloe Francis

Body image is how an individual sees their own body whether it is focusing on their weight, hair, skin, and/or a certain size of their body part. Body image is also an influential aspect of our everyday lives. Considering the role it plays in our mental health, how we socially interact, and how we play sports, body positivity allows someone to function at their best in all three of these aspects. Within this article, you will learn about the correlation between sports and body image, steps to helping someone with body image issues, and a first-hand look at an athlete and her journey with body image.

Your body image has a direct correlation to how you participate in a sport. A study shows that if you have a healthy body image, this can lead to stronger endurance as well as increased mental health. When someone is down about their appearance, they will rather focus on their body than other aspects of themselves which can lead to unhealthy habits. For example, a negative body image can lead to body dysmorphic disorder, mood disorders, eating disorders, and many more. Additionally, a survey study was conducted with 231 college athletes and their views on the relationship between their body image and sports performance. The survey found that females perceive themselves as slightly more overweight than their true size and would like to be slimmer in appearance.

One significant contributor to negative body image is being in an environment that enables diet culture and weight restricting behaviors. This has significantly increased commentary on one’s physical appearance and placed a greater emphasis on the ideal body type. Another study focuses on the WNCAA Division 1, 2, and 3 athletes in basketball, softball, track/cross country, volleyball, soccer, tennis, swimming/diving, and ice hockey. That study concluded that 49.2% of D1 and 40% of DIII athletes had an eating disorder at the time. There was also a total of 24% and 30% of athletes who reported having negative body dissatisfaction. Lastly, the D3 athletes reported higher behaviors associated with eating disorders and preoccupation with weight. This alarming data reaffirms how a high-pressure environment such as the WNCAA league can have devastating effects on body image.

Acknowledging Studies focused on the effects of negative body image, demonstrating the need to change one’s attitude towards physical activity. Exercise is more than a way to lose weight or maintain a certain body shape. Physical activity can help a body reach its full potential, improve one’s mood, acts as a social activity or artistic expression, and can be a lot of fun! Also, welcome the development of a healthy relationship with food! Healthy eating allows people to become strong and healthy from the abundance of nutrients in foods.

Sports play a vital role in body image. With a first-hand look, a 17-year-old athlete is celebrated to be competing at the international level in Canada. However, the attention shifted towards how out of place she had felt due to them being ‘smaller and thinner’. This reaffirms the body image issues athletes go through due to social pressures and the ideal body athletes' bodies are analyzed and studied more than a non-athletic individual. A study by ESPN on D1 college students done on body image reported 68% of participants feeling pressure to be pretty because of the chance it can help them get noticed with recruitment.

After reading this article, you are now more clearly aware of the effect body image has in sports. Body image affects everything you do. In conclusion, you need to put yourself first and not be too critical of yourself because everyone is different and everyone’s body is so special and beautiful. Whether you are a D1 athlete or don't play a sport at all, your body is always an important factor in your life. After all, body positivity can become the gateway to a healthier and happier individual!

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