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For overweight women, roadblocks to exercise may be in their head

October 9, 2008 | 11:55 am

Let's be honest -- most of us are able to exercise, we just choose not to. We set up our own roadblocks that undermine whatever intentions we may have to be physically active.

EmptygymBut obese women may have more of those roadblocks. A study presented at the Obesity Society’s annual scientific meeting in Phoenix this week found that obese women create more mental barriers that keep them from exercising than normal or underweight women.

Researchers from the Center for Obesity Research and Education and the kinesiology department at Temple University in Philadelphia surveyed 105 overweight and obese women and 173 normal and underweight women enrolled in a home-based exercise promotion trial. Overall, the overweight and obese women told of more perceived obstacles to exercise than their slimmer counterparts. They were more likely to feel self-conscious about how they looked while exercising, felt they lacked self-discipline, hated to fail so didn’t try, feared injury, viewed activity as hard work, had minor aches and pains, and felt too overweight to exercise.

Overweight and obese women who had these stumbling blocks at the beginning of the study were less likely to be physically active at a 12-month follow-up.

But rather than interpret these barriers as rationalizations, researchers saw them as challenges that need addressing. "These might sound like excuses to some people," said lead author Melissa Napolitano, associate professor of kinesiology, in a news release, "but for those who have these aversions, they’re real problems."

Tailored programs, she added, are necessary to help overweight women clear these hurdles and sustain a weight-loss program.

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: George Briggs

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