Reciprocal relations between body dissatisfaction and excessive exercise in college women

Heather A. Davis, Molly Rush, Gregory T. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Body dissatisfaction elevates the risk for disordered eating behaviors. Excessive exercise is prevalent among college women and associated with harm. Risk theory posits a bidirectional relationship between risk factors for disordered eating behaviors and the behaviors themselves. This study investigated the longitudinal, reciprocal relationship between body dissatisfaction and excessive exercise. Participants and methods: College women (n = 302) assessed in August (baseline) and November (follow-up). Results: Baseline body dissatisfaction significantly predicted increases in excessive exercise endorsement at follow-up, controlling for baseline excessive exercise endorsement and body mass index (BMI). Baseline excessive exercise endorsement predicted increases in body dissatisfaction at follow-up, controlling for baseline body dissatisfaction and BMI. Conclusions: Findings support the presence of a positive feedback loop between body dissatisfaction and excessive exercise; both predict increases in risk for the other, regardless of weight status. Future research should test whether this process is ongoing and predicts further distress.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of American College Health
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Bibliographical note

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© 2022 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Body dissatisfaction
  • college students
  • exercise
  • weight

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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