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Acute Effects of Low Intensity Resistance Exercise on State Body Image and Affective States in Men with and without Symptoms of Muscle Dysmorphia




Male body image, Muscle dysmorphia, Resistance exercise, body image, mental health


Background: A hallmark characteristic of people with muscle dysmorphia (MD) is daily bouts of vigorous resistance exercise (RE). Moreover, these people experience significant tension and distress when forced to miss (i.e., deprivation) or change the structure of (i.e., deviation) of a planned RE session. However, little research has empirically tested these responses, and none has compared them to people without MD.

Methods: Young-adult men (n=20) were separated into an MD group (n=10) and non-MD group (n=10) based on their responses to an MD assessment. Participants first completed a 10-repetition maximum (10-RM) strength test on four exercises and then after at least 48-hours of no RE (i.e., deprivation), completed acute bout of low-intensity RE (50% of 10-RM) (i.e., deviation). State body image was assessed before and after RE while affective valence and psychological arousal were assessed before, during, and after RE and plotted on the circumplex model of affect.

Results: As hypothesized, men in the non-MD group had a more favorable body image response relative to men in the MD group. As evidenced by the circumplex model, men in the non-MD group also had a more pleasurable affective response during and after the session relative to the MD group who experienced more displeasure throughout the session.

Conclusion: Overall, even in a small sample size it appears that even after a period of RE deprivation, low intensity RE had very little therapeutic effect for men in the MD group.


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