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Medicina dello Sport 2014 March;67(1):99-107


language: English, Italian

Relationship between participation in lean sports and body image distortion: a controlled study

Di Cagno A., Pistone E. M., Battaglia C., Borrione P., Giombini A., Pigozzi F.

Dipartimento di Scienze Motorie, Umane e della Salute, Università di Roma “Foro Italico”, Roma, Italia


AIM: The body esthetic appearance strongly influenced success in several sport disciplines. Participation in competitive sport has been frequently linked to distortions in body image. The aim of this study was to verify the correctness of the one’s own body image perception and the level of satisfaction, to foresee eating disorders in male and female gymnasts, as well as carry out potential preventive strategies.
METHODS: The “Figure Rating Scale Questionnaire” were completed by 40 gymnasts, 20 males (age 12.2±0.5 years) and 20 females (age 12.8±0.2 years), and 46 matched controls (age: 12.6±0.5 years; 13.1±0.3 years, males and females respectively).
RESULTS: Overall sample perception of their own body image corresponded to the real size (RS), estimated by BMI. The two way ANOVA showed significant differences for RS between genders (F1.84=13.473; P<0.01) and between athlete and non athlete groups (F1.84=77.522; P<0.01), for perceived size (PS) between athlete and non athlete groups (F1.84=54.807; P<0.01), and for desire size (DS) between genders (F1.84=27.904; P<0.01) and between athlete and non athlete groups (F1.84=11.093; P<0.01). The sample expressed a significant satisfaction (P<0.01) with their own body image, except to female controls that desired them to be significantly more slim than the real size. The gymnasts are more satisfied with their body image than controls. Athletes have a better physical shape that reflects a positive idea of them, facilitating a positive evaluation of one’s own body. Male groups were substantially satisfied of their real size, confirming that females are more exposed to eating disorder problems.
CONCLUSION: A correct evaluation of one’s own body image is essential in the prevention of pathological eating behaviours.

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