How being heavy or lean shapes our view of exercise

Jan. 8, 2014, New York Times [Well Blog]

By Gretchen Reynolds

Overweight women’s brains respond differently to images of exercise than do the brains of leaner women, a sophisticated new neurological study finds, suggesting that our attitudes toward physical activity may be more influenced by our body size than has previously been understood.

For the study, which was published last month in the International Journal of Obesity, scientists affiliated with the Key Laboratory of Cognition and Personality at Southwest University in Chongqing, China, recruited 13 healthy, young, normal-weight women and 13 who were overweight or obese.

The scientists asked their volunteers to complete two questionnaires, one of which probed the extent to which they considered exercise desirable; would they agree, for instance, that, “if I were to be healthy and active, it would help me make friends”? The other set of questions examined whether they expected exercise to be unpleasant; if they were to be physically active on most days, for example, would they expect to wind up feeling sore, or maybe even embarrassed by exercising in public? Continue reading