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Overweight people who feel discriminated tend to exercise less

Posted March 9, 2017

Discrimination is everywhere in the meanest forms – women, homosexuals, handicap, tattooed and many other people are being judged by their visible characteristics. However, is this discrimination as bad as people tend to see it? Scientists from UCL conducted a research, which revealed that overweight people who feel being discriminated are often less physically active.

People do not want to exercise, because they lack motivation or are afraid of getting embarrassed. Image credit: Alan Cleaver via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

In other words, those people, who do not actively try changing their appearance and weight, feel discriminated more often than those who are physically active. These results are eye opening, especially because of the large data pool analysed. Scientists analysed data from more than 5,400 men and women aged over 50. Researchers found that those people, who said that they are being discriminated against because of their size, are 60 % more likely to be inactive physically and 30 % less likely to partake in vigorous exercising. One would think that it is related to the attitude of the people, but scientists have other ideas as well.

Scientists think that these people may be extremely self-conscious and are feeling judged so much that they do not want to go exercising. They also may feel helpless, because of the stereotypes calling them lazy – why would they bother is society is already thinking all they do is eat? It is also interesting that weight discrimination is not that common. Not that many people reported being discriminated against because of their weight.

Only 4.9% of the participants reported weight discrimination. That is really not that many and such low number is probably because of how common weight problems are. 13 % of obese people said that they were discriminated against because of their weight, but only 0.9 % of participants who were moderately overweight could say that. However, actual weight or BMI did not matter when it came to exercising – people who felt discriminated against were less likely to exercise regardless of how overweight they were. Also, one of the main limitations of this study was the fact that discrimination was self-reported – no hard evidence has been collected. It means that it is all about perception.

Scientists say that physical activity is beneficial for mental and physical health and thus it should be encouraged. In some cases interventions should be needed, to allow overweight people to move more without feeling judged or looked at.

Source: UCL

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