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John C. Spence, Kerry R. McGannon and Pauline Poon

The purpose of this study was to quantitatively review the body of research on exercise and global self-esteem (GSE). This review focuses specifically on studies using adults and also incorporates both published and unpublished works. Computer and manual searches identified 113 studies matching the selection criteria. Each study was coded according to 20 study features. A total of 128 effect sizes (d) were derived. As indicated by effect-size magnitude, participation in exercise brought about a small change in GSE (d = +0.23). Change in physical fitness and type of program were significant moderators of the effect of exercise on GSE. Larger effect sizes were observed for those who experienced significant changes in physical fitness and those participating in exercise or lifestyle programs as opposed to skills training.