Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management

Committee Chair/Advisor

Schmalz, Dorothy L

Committee Member

Barcelona , Robert J

Committee Member

Kemper , Karen A


Physical activity can have a positive impact on several aspects of mental health, including self-esteem. Positive mental health effects of physical activity may be related to increased skill competency and social interaction (Paluska & Schwenk, 2000). Research indicates that self-esteem is also increased by participation in physical activity. Specifically, girls who participate in physical activity have higher self-esteem than girls who do not participate (Wilson & Rodgers, 2002; Schmalz, Deane, Birch, Davidson, 2007). Self-esteem that emerges from physical activity is an important factor in the health and wellbeing of college women. Social, emotional, academic and physical aspects of a young woman's life play a large part in her wellbeing during college (Ahern, Bennett, Kelly & Hetherington, 2011). College women in particular are continually faced with issues of body image dissatisfaction and low self-esteem (Forrest & Stuhdreher, 2007). Research has shown that women who are physically active for extrinsic reasons are less likely to develop strong motivational patterns throughout life and more likely to have overall lower levels of self-worth than women who are motivated intrinsically (Wilson & Rogers, 2002). Influential factors to participate in physical activity include societal impacts from friends, family, and the media. However, specific motivations for physical activity participation are less understood.
This study sought to examine the role that appearance motivation plays in the relationship between physical activity participation and self-esteem among college women. The sample consisted of 668 undergraduate women between the ages of 18-24 enrolled in classes at a mid-size southeastern university during the 2012 spring semester. A questionnaire was developed using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire, Motivations for Physical Activity Measure - Revised and the Rosenberg Self-Esteem scale to collect information on physical activity participation, motivations and self-esteem levels of college women. Study results presented no significant relationship between physical activity participation and self-esteem. Physical activity participation and self-esteem were not mediated by appearance motivation; however, there was a significant relationship between physical activity participation and appearance motivations.



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