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Molly Burger and Dennis Dolny

The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships among body mass index (BMI), body image perception, physical activity habits, and exercise stage of change in college-aged females. Volunteers (N = 134) completed a survey of demographics, Stage of Exercise Scale (SOES; Cardinal, 1995a; Cardinal, 1995b), Physical Activity History questionnaire (PAH; Jacobs, Hahn, Haskell, Pirie, & Sidney, 1989), and Body Shape Questionnaire (BSQ; Cooper, Taylor, Cooper, & Fairburn, 1987). Participants were categorized into five exercise stages of change: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. Relationships between the variables were analyzed with Pearson r correlations. Kruskal-Wallis independence tests were also used for analyses. Approximately 60% of the participants reported current physical inactivity or irregular exercise. BMI and body image score were significantly linearly related, with higher body mass indicating more negative body image (r = 30, p <.017). Significant differences existed between exercise stages for physical activity score, X2 (3, N = 134) = 19.98, p <.05. Based upon follow-up tests participants in the maintenance stage had significantly higher physical activity scores than all other stages. No significant differences were found for BMI or body image between exercise stages. Regular exercisers had the highest frequency of disordered eating and weight-preoccupied attitudes and behaviors. The majority of these women were not currently regularly physically active, professed dissatisfaction with their current level of activity, and expressed a fear of being fat. Further study directed at specific factors related to body image and exercise behaviors, as well as the impact of stage-specific interventions are suggested.