The Presence of an Exercise Instructor or Group Members Affects Physical Self-Concept and Physical Self-Esteem: An Experimental Study in the Elderly


Background: Physical self-concept and physical self-esteem are important sources of general self-esteem and overall health. Evidence indicates that exercise leads to an enhancement in physical self-concept and physical self-esteem. Until now however, it remained unclear whether the beneficial effects of exercise were impacted by different types of exercise environments. Thus, the purpose of this study was to experimentally investigate, whether the presence or absence of an instructor or other group members influenced elder adults’ physical self-concept and esteem. Method: Participants were 46 women and 20 men (Mean age 65.4, SD = 4.36) who were randomly assigned to one of four experimental groups differing across two factors—group versus no-group and instructor versus no-instructor. Participants took part in an 8-week-walking program with a comparable number of training sessions across the four experimental groups. Physical self-concept and physical self-esteem were assessed both pre and post exercise intervention. Results: Descriptively, the highest improvement in physical self-concept and esteem were observed in the instructor/no-group and the no-instructor/group condition. Between these two conditions, no significant difference of change was observed. Moreover, no improvement was observed when both instructor and group were present. Conclusion: Effects of either instructor presence or group presence may be explained by mechanisms of social integration and social support. An unexpected absence of effects on self-concept and esteem under the instructor/group condition are explained with reference to an individual’s cognitive dissonance caused by the need to adapt to different exercise oriented goals or attitudes of the instructor and the group members which might hinder the positive development of the self.

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Kleinert, J. , Pels, F. and Podlog, L. (2014) The Presence of an Exercise Instructor or Group Members Affects Physical Self-Concept and Physical Self-Esteem: An Experimental Study in the Elderly. Health, 6, 1616-1627. doi: 10.4236/health.2014.613194.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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