Application of the Embodiment Model of Positive Body Image and Physical Activity: A Longitudinal Study


Positive body image (PBI) is a multidimensional construct, comprised of various facets including but not limited to body acceptance and body appreciation (Tylka and Wood-Barcalow, 2015b). Positive body image likely protects against negative physical and mental health and well-being (Tylka and Wood-Barcalow, 2015b). Menzel and Levine (2011) proposed that embodying physical activities (PA) contribute to PBI directly, as well as indirectly through increased embodiment and reduced self-objectification. Consistent with this model, this longitudinal study investigated if embodying PA affects PBI (body appreciation) through increased embodiment and decreased self-objectification. Two waves of data, separated by 6 months, were collected. Participants (recruited through Qualtrics) were 440 adults, 18+ years of age (range 18-85 years), of which 238 (54%) identified as male. They completed demographic information (e.g., age, gender) and measures of body appreciation, embodiment, self-objectification, and embodied PA. We investigated the total indirect effect (with bootstrapping) of two mediators (embodiment and self-objectification) on the relationship between embodying PA and body appreciation using AMOS. The direct effect of total embodying PA on body appreciation was nonsignificant. Serial mediation did occur, where embodying PA led to increases in embodiment (b = .10, [.01, .12], p = .057), decreases in self-objectification (b = .31, [.23, .39], p < .001) and increases in body appreciation (b = -.21, [-.32, -.08], p = .009). This study provides one of the first longitudinal tests of the embodiment model. Future research should experimentally test the embodiment model in a sample of men and women across the lifespan.