A study published in the latest issue of Psychology of Women Quarterly reports that mind-body exercise, such as yoga, is associated with greater body satisfaction and fewer symptoms of eating disorders than traditional aerobic exercise like jogging or using cardio machines.
Yoga practitioners reported less self-objectification, greater satisfaction with physical appearance, and fewer disordered eating attitudes compared to non-yoga practitioners. In yoga class, a woman develops sensitivity to bodily sensations and practices listening to her body's feedback.
"This heightened sensitivity and responsiveness to bodily sensations is associated with less preoccupation of physical appearance, more positive views of the body, and more healthy regulation of food intake," author Jennifer Daubenmier states. The greater the number of hours a woman practiced yoga in a week was associated with even less self-objectification and greater satisfaction with her body, while the more hours a woman spent performing aerobic activity was linked with greater disordered eating.
The article discusses two studies. Study 1 consisted of three types of women: those currently taking yoga classes, those partaking in aerobic classes, and those who had not participated in either for the past two years. Participants were asked to complete a survey on "women and exercise" that they completed at home and mailed back. Study one consisted of women who, on average, were thirty-seven years old. Study two consisted of undergraduates, a population known to be at greater risk for self-objectification and eating disorders. The results were consistent in both studies. "Through yoga, this study suggests that women may have intuitively discovered a way to buffer themselves against messages that tell them that only a thin and 'beautiful' body will lead to happiness and success," the author explains.
This study is published in the current issue of Psychology of Women Quarterly.
Psychology of Women Quarterly publishes primarily qualitative and quantitative research with substantive and theoretical merit, along with critical reviews, theoretical articles, and invited book reviews related to the psychology of women and gender. It is published on behalf of the Society for the Psychology of Women, Division 35 of the American Psychological Association.
Jennifer Daubenmier is postdoctoral scholar at the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California. She is the 2005 recipient of the Practice Relevant Abstract from the American Psychosomatic Society.
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