The exercise leader's gender and physique salience : effects on self-presentational concerns in an exercise context
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Self-presentation is the process by which individuals attempt to monitor and control how others perceive and evaluate them (Leary, 1992; Leary & Kowalski, 1990). Self-presentational concerns have been shown to influence a number of exercise-related behaviours, cognitions, and affective responses to exercise (e.g., social anxiety). Social anxiety occurs when an individual wants to create a specific impression on others, but is unsure (s)he will be successful (Leary & Kowalski, 1995). Social physique anxiety (SPA) is a specific form of social anxiety related the evaluation of one's body (Hart, Leary, & Rejeski, 1989). Both social anxiety and SPA may act as deterrents to exercise (Lantz, Hardy, & Ainsworth, 1997; Leary, 1992), so it is important to examine factors that may influence social anxiety and SPA; one such factor is self-presentational efficacy (SPE). SPE is one's confidence in successfully making desired impressions on others (Leary & Atherton, 1986) and has been associated with social anxiety and SPA (Leary & Kowalski, 1995; Gammage, Martin Ginis, & Hall, 2004). Several aspects of the exercise environment, such as the presence of mirrors, clothing, and the exercise leader or other participant characteristics, may be manipulated to influence self-presentational concerns (e.g., Gammage, Martin Ginis et aI., 2004; Martin & Fox, 2001; Martin Ginis, Prapavessis, & Haase, 2005). Given that the exercise leader has been recognized as one of the most important influences in the group exercise context (Franklin, 1988), it is important to further examine how the leader may impact self-presentational concerns. The present study examined the impact of the exercise leader's gender and physique salience (i.e., the extent to which the body was emphasized) on SPE, state social anxiety (SSA), and state social physique anxiety (SPA-S) of women in a live exercise class. Eighty-seven college-aged female non- or infrequent exercisers (i.e., exercised 2 or fewer times per week) participated in a group exercise class led by one of four leaders: a female whose physique was salient; a female whose physique was non-salient; a male whose physique was salient; or a male whose physique was non-salient. Participants completed measures of SPE, SSA, and SPA-S prior to and following completion of a 30- minute group exercise class. In addition, a measure of social comparison to the exercise leader and other participants with respect to attractiveness, skill, and fitness was completed by participants following the exercise class. A MANOV A was conducted to examine differences between groups on postexercise variables. Results indicated that there were no significant differences between groups on measures ofSPE, SSA, or SPA-S (allp's > .05). However, when all participants were collapsed into one group, a MANOV A showed a significant time effect (F(3, 81) = 19.45,p < .05, 1')2= .419). Follow-up ANOVAs indicated that post-exercise SPE increased significantly, while SSA and SPA-S decreased significantly (SPE: F(I, 83) = 30.87,p < .001,1')2 = .27; SSA: F(I,83) = 11.09,p < .001, 1')2 = .12; SPA-S: F (1,83) = 42.79,p < .001, 1')2 = .34). Further, results of a MANOVA revealed that participants who believed they were less fit than other group members (i.e., made negative social comparisons) reported significantly more post-exercise SSA and SP A-S than those who believed they were more fit than the other participants (i.e., made positive comparisons; SSA: F(2, 84) = 3.46, p < .05, 1')2 = .08; SPA-S: F(2, 84) = 5.69, p < .05, 1')2 = .12). These results may indicate that successfully completing an exercise class may serve as a source of SPE and lead to reduced social anxiety and SPA-S in this population. Alternatively, characteristics of the exercise leader may be less important than characteristics of the other participants. These results also suggest that the types of social comparisons made may influence self-presentational concerns in this sample. Future research should examine how the type of social comparison (i.e., negative or positive) made to the other group members may either generate or reduce anxiety. Also, factors that contribute to the types of social comparisons made with other exercisers should be examined. Implications for practice and research are discussed.