Why and how should i exercise? A content analysis of popular magazines

Emily L. Mailey, Rebecca Gasper, Deirdre Dlugonski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objectives: In this study, we investigated how exercise is portrayed in popular, non-fitness focused magazines targeting various audiences. Methods: Ten popular magazines were selected based on target audience (Teens, Young Adults, Family, Middle-Aged Adults, Older Adults). Ten digital articles from each magazine's health/fitness section were coded for the primary reason to exercise, the frequency, intensity, time, and type of exercise recommended, and whether their recommendations were evidence-based. Frequencies were calculated by target audience. Results: The primary reason for exercise differed by audience, with appearance and fitness emphasized by magazines targeting younger audiences, and mental health/quality of life emphasized in magazines targeting older adults. Over half of the articles described exercises that should be completed 2x-3x/week for <10 minutes. Articles frequently recommended circuit workouts that could be completed at moderate or self-selected intensity. Only 10% of articles cited peerreviewed evidence. Conclusions: Results showed popular magazines often represent exercise as something that can be completed in a short time frame with meaningful benefits. However, an overemphasis on appearance in young adults is apparent, which could undermine intrinsic motivation and behavior. Improved communication between researchers and popular magazines is needed to promote sharing of credible, evidence-based exercise content with the public.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-360
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Health Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 PNG Publications. All rights reserved.


  • Internet
  • exercise
  • magazine
  • motivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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