This study examined whether information about an individual’s exercise habits influences the impressions that others form of the individual. Using a 2 (target’s gender) × 3 (target’s exercise status) design, 627 men and women participants read a description of a young man or woman who was described as an exerciser, nonexerciser, or control. Participants then rated the target on 12 personality and 8 appearance dimensions. Analyses revealed significant main effects for both independent variables (p < .05). Nonexercisers received lower ratings than the exercisers and/or controls did on virtually all the dimensions (p < .05), and female targets were rated more favorably than male targets were on several dimensions (p < .05). The interaction between a target’s exercise status and gender was not significant. The results suggest that for women, as well as men, there are self-presentational benefits associated with being an exerciser and self-presentational liabilities for those who are nonexercisers.
The authors are with the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, L8S 4K1 Canada.