Physical activity advertisements that feature daily well-being improve autonomy and body image in overweight women but not men

J Obes. 2012;2012:354721. doi: 10.1155/2012/354721. Epub 2012 Jun 4.


The reasons for exercising that are featured in health communications brand exercise and socialize individuals about why they should be physically active. Discovering which reasons for exercising are associated with high-quality motivation and behavioral regulation is essential to promoting physical activity and weight control that can be sustained over time. This study investigates whether framing physical activity in advertisements featuring distinct types of goals differentially influences body image and behavioral regulations based on self-determination theory among overweight and obese individuals. Using a three-arm randomized trial, overweight and obese women and men (aged 40-60 yr, n = 1690) read one of three ads framing physical activity as a way to achieve (1) better health, (2) weight loss, or (3) daily well-being. Framing effects were estimated in an ANOVA model with pairwise comparisons using the Bonferroni correction. This study showed that there are immediate framing effects on physical activity behavioral regulations and body image from reading a one-page advertisement about physical activity and that gender and BMI moderate these effects. Framing physical activity as a way to enhance daily well-being positively influenced participants' perceptions about the experience of being physically active and enhanced body image among overweight women, but not men. The experiment had less impact among the obese study participants compared to those who were overweight. These findings support a growing body of research suggesting that, compared to weight loss, framing physical activity for daily well-being is a better gain-frame message for overweight women in midlife.