Overweight Men and Women Respond Differently to Exercise Advertisements

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Exercise advertisements have a different effect on overweight men and women, according to a new University of Michigan study. While men were motivated by weight loss and health, women were more encouraged by daily well-being. Los Angeles LAP-BAND VIP Dr. Hooman Shabatian said the fitness industry has an opportunity to adjust their marketing tactics to best reach men and women.

For men, promoting exercise for weight loss or better health may be effective. But for women, messages might be more motivating if they highlighted the connection between exercise and well-being

Men and women may have different motivation to exercise, according to a new study. Researchers conducted a study funded by the National Institutes of Health to determine what type of exercise advertisements motivates overweight men and women. Women were more motivated to exercise by advertisements promoting daily well-being, while weight loss and health were the top reasons men were inspired to exercise.

With more than two-thirds of the U.S. population being overweight or obese, fitness marketers should find a way to reach their target audience most effectively, said Los Angeles weight loss surgeon Dr. Hooman Shabatian.

“Discovering the best way to motivate overweight people through marketing initiatives should be a public health priority in order to combat obesity,” said Dr. Shabatian, who was not involved in the study.

A University of Michigan team conducted the study with 1690 overweight and obese men and women between the ages of 40 and 60. By showing the participants one-page fitness advertisements framing exercise as a way to achieve better health, weight loss or daily well-being, the team assessed what influenced motivation to exercise. Lead researcher Michelle Segar said she was surprised that men and women responded in the complete opposite direction.

"Exercise is frequently prescribed as a way to lose weight," said Segar, associate director for the Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy (SHARP) Center for Women and Girls and research investigator at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender. "But promoting activity primarily for weight loss may backfire among overweight women. Our findings suggest that featuring weight loss as the reason to exercise not only decreases intrinsic motivation, it also worsens body image. This is not true for men."

Men reported increased motivation to exercise and enhanced body image after reading fitness advertisements.

"For men, promoting exercise for weight loss or better health may be effective. But for women, messages might be more motivating if they highlighted the connection between exercise and well-being. We should consider rebranding exercise for women," Segar said.

The take away from the research, Segar said, is that men and women might need different types of advertisements promoting exercise. The study also builds upon previous research suggesting that overweight women who exercise for immediately experienced benefits, such as well-being, level of participation than those who exercise for weight loss or health benefits.

To read the study in its entirety in the Journal of Obesity’s June issue on Self-regulation, Motivation and Psychosocial Factors in Weight Management, visit http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jobes/2012/354721/.

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