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Exploring the Reasoning Behind Gender Differences in Exercise Habits Taylor Dove University of North Carolina at Charlotte

2 EXPLORING THE REASONING BEHIND GENDER DIFFERENCES IN EXERCISE HABITS Introduction The odor of sweat fills the humid air; the clanking of weights and winding of the treadmill become constant sounds; the upbeat music causes my heart rate to fasten -- I have arrived at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte's Fitness Center. College students flood to the gym daily and enter a unique space where behaviors that are considered by society as "inappropriate" in a public setting are widely accepted and sometimes encouraged in a fitness center. Loud grunting, poor body odor and hygiene, and blasting of loud music are just a few of these "inappropriate" behaviors. Like a painter’s canvas, the fitness center has all the mediums an artist could possibly need, it is just up to the student to utilize these "mediums" to create their "masterpiece" by losing weight, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, or strengthening their muscles to ultimately achieve the body they desire. The fitness center at UNC Charlotte is divided into 3 main sections. The first section is the free weight section which is divided into two subsections: the left side includes mostly dumbbells and benches, while the right side includes bench presses, squat racks, and a multipurpose rack. The second section is the strength machine section, which includes machines such as the leg press, shoulder press, and hamstring curl. Finally, the cardiovascular equipment section, which includes treadmills, elliptical machines, bikes, and rowing machines. As an active gym goer, I found myself fascinated at the observance that that men and women seemed to concentrate their workouts in different parts of the gym. I also noticed that workout habits seemed to vary between gender. It seemed that men completely dominated the sections of the gym in which they could lift weights. Personally, I know that regardless of gender, there are many benefits to weightlifting, so why then, were female college students
Comment [ds2]: Good detail and visuals Comment [ds1]: Helpful to see your insight at beginning of paper

3 EXPLORING THE REASONING BEHIND GENDER DIFFERENCES IN EXERCISE HABITS barely present in the free weight section of the UNC Charlotte Fitness Center? I began to broaden my perspective and think more deeply as to what would cause this phenomena to occur. Was there a relationship between a college student's purpose of going to the gym and the workout they carried out? Furthermore, was their gender a factor in deciding these goals and workouts? Plausible explanations to consider have been differences in societal expectations of gender, differences in physical ability by gender, and the psychology of males and females, and intimidation factor of the opposite sex. As a UNC Charlotte student, I am a member of the university's fitness center and find myself going to the gym very often. Furthermore, I take my health and fitness seriously and enjoy using all sections of the facility. With that said, my hope is to determine why females and males have differing exercise habits when all sections of the gym facility are important to use regardless of gender. As a female, I find it distressing that other college females fail to utilize the free weight section of the fitness center as frequently as the males do. I hope that through this project, males and females will gain a better understanding for the opposite sex's exercise habits and become more encouraged to use parts of the gym they normally would not. As a female, I hope other females can discover that regardless of their fitness goals, incorporating weightlifting into their daily workout routine has extreme benefits. Literature Review Male and Female Exercise Habits: Previous research has shown that men and women have different exercise habits. The reasons men and women work out are highly influenced by society. Body image issues can be linked to the way the media and culture portray standards of men and women (Murnen, Smolak,
Comment [ds4]: State reasons you are writing the paper rather what your hopes are for it Comment [ds3]: May make more sense if you change “have been” to “are”

4 EXPLORING THE REASONING BEHIND GENDER DIFFERENCES IN EXERCISE HABITS Mills, et al, 2003). In fact, grade school children have reported body dissatisfaction because of their desire to match the images of men and women in the media (Murnen, Smolak, Mills, et al, 2003). Men and women also exercise in attempt to make themselves appealing to the opposite sex. In 2007, Jonason's research showed that men and women pursued "sex-appropriate" exercise behavior to self-enhance themselves to attract mates. Male Exercise Habits: Men are more interested in weightlifting than women (Thunfors, Collins & Hanlon 2009). In the United States, men’s ratings of their current and ideal muscularity were associated with trying to fit society's version of the "male role", and many men desired increased muscularity for reasons related to increased dominance and attractiveness to women (Frederick, Buchanan, et al 2007). These results suggest widespread desire for increased muscularity among men are supported by additional research suggesting that the objectification of men in the media has increased, perhaps promoting a “drive for muscularity” among boys (Murnen, Smolak, Mills & Good, 2003). Additionally, men believe that a more muscular body proves their male dominance and will make them appear more attractive to women. Men focus their energy on exercising their upper bodies in order to gain muscle mass, enhancing their upper bodies to look bigger (Jonason 2007). Jonason's research shows that men pursue "sex-appropriate" exercise behavior to selfenhance themselves to attract mates. In addition to looking physically better, a study done at the University of Florida found that in men, exercise dependence was related to men wanting to benefit from physically and psychologically feeling better. Those who exercise to change their physical form exhibit
Comment [ds6]: Add your observance of seeing males you the scale more often then females Comment [ds5]: Correctly format citations

5 EXPLORING THE REASONING BEHIND GENDER DIFFERENCES IN EXERCISE HABITS appearance imagery, while energy imagery exercisers work out for the benefit of feeling better physically and psychologically (Hausenblas & Stannard 2002). So while males strive to change their appearance, they also desire to improve their moods by working out. Female Exercise Habits: In my research study at the UNC Charlotte Fitness Center, I observed college females tending to work out in the cardio vascular section for the majority of their work out. This could further be explained by critical ratio tests in research done by A.E. Whiteman and others in 2013 that revealed associations between exercise and weight loss behaviors were more strongly correlated among females as compared with males. The trend that females were more focused on losing weight was seen in several research studies including Thunfors, Collins & Hanlon (2009) in addition to Whiteman (2013). Furthermore, Jonason's work showed that women focused on losing weight with emphasis of exercising their lower bodies with the goal of looking smaller. Females are also motivated to change their body images for reasons regarding their self-esteem. Women exercising in excess was related to trying to change their appearance in a study conducted by the University of Florida (Hausenblas & Stannard, 2002). Furthermore, only females associate body dissatisfaction with the level of their self-esteem (Tiggeman & Willimson, 2000; Furnham, Badmin & Sneade, 2002). I also observed that female college students tended to work out in a group or with a partner more often than males did. This could be related to Van Bothmers and Fridlunds study that focused on the overall health of college students in Sweden’s lives. In paying particular attention to the area of physical activity and the level of physical activity based on gender conducted within the study we see a trend emerge in females. Results showed that females with
Comment [ds7]: Add date study was done

6 EXPLORING THE REASONING BEHIND GENDER DIFFERENCES IN EXERCISE HABITS higher social support showed higher levels of exercise. Could this suggest that the ways in which women exercise is influenced on whether or not they have a partner or people in the gym with them? My Position While it is evident that males at UNC Charlotte tend to dominate the free-weight section of the gym at UNC Charlotte, the reason as to why this is and as to why females do not utilize this section as often is still unexplained (Dove, 2013). Based on my experience, and the various sources I have read, I feel that it is quite evident that men and women go to the gym for similar purposes but desire different results for various reasons. For college students, ones physical attractiveness is often of high importance and is reason for why many students engage in physical activities. However, because they posses different expectations for how their bodies should look, this further translates into differing exercise habits. Media and culture have a large influence on the types of bodies both men and women strive for. When it comes to men, the ideal stereotypical man in Western society is often perceived as big and muscular. Thus, it is common for many adolescent and young adult men to feel pressured to be as masculine as possible; consequently, they begin spending large amounts of time working out at the gym in an attempt to build muscle and bulk up. Research by Jonason (2007) shows that men focus on exercising their upper bodies as this causes others to perceive them as larger and therefore more dominant. I believe the male obsession of becoming larger is a plausible explanation as to why more men were observed in the weight-lifting section of the gym and as to why men used the scale at the fitness center more than women.
Comment [ds10]: Good that you add your own opinion so you are not just listing points that you agree with Comment [ds9]: Are we supposed to cite ourselves? Our own research? Comment [ds8]: Overall, it is good that you gave a small summary and included your own point of view

Comment [ds11]: Note to self: go back and expand further on this idea/observance

7 EXPLORING THE REASONING BEHIND GENDER DIFFERENCES IN EXERCISE HABITS It is also very important for males to find a mate. Biologically, we strive to attain a desirable body for the opposite sex. Men know that most women prefer men who are bigger and more muscular. Thus, this translates into the type of exercise males chose to incorporate in their workout routine. Men may have stayed away from the cardiovascular machines in fear of losing weight. Furthermore, Jonason's research suggests that men exhibit "sex-appropriate" behaviors around the other sex, and running on a treadmill for example may not allow males to display the masculine behavior that is considered "appropriate" by women. When it comes to women, the media portrays the ideal image of a woman to be thin and sexy. Furthermore, numerous studies have shown that when females work out they are more interested in losing weight and they have a strong desire to look smaller rather than heavier (Barry; Furman; Jonason; Thunfors, Collins, and Hanlon; Murmen). This could possibly explain why women do not incorporate free-weights into their workout very often and instead were observed to be in the cardiovascular section most frequently (Dove, 2013). In an attempt to fit society's ideal womanly figure, women may focus their workout on exercises such as cardio and strength machines in order to lose weight and have a more slender body. Based on personal experience, it is my opinion that when women think of lifting weights they may tend to assume to the conclusion that this means they will deviate from their ideal figure becoming bulky and large. However, this is not the case. Women can use free weights in their workout to achieve the body they desire by dictating the amount of weight they use and the amount of times they complete the exercise. Female college students may also workout with the purpose of increasing their self-esteem. In contrast to men, women’s self esteem was found to be directly related to their body image. With that said, women may work out to achieve this ideal figure of a women, and in some cases work out to excess to achieve this change in their image
Comment [ds13]: Rephrase so it is not offensive -also see if you can find source that says point of bulkiness Comment [ds14]: see if you can break up paragraph or transition better between ideas Comment [ds12]: Note to self: attempt to make these choppy sentences more fluid

8 EXPLORING THE REASONING BEHIND GENDER DIFFERENCES IN EXERCISE HABITS (Hausenblas & Stannard, 2002). I personally observed that female college students were found working out in groups or partners more often than men. This observation makes sense when we take into consideration that women are social in their nature. A study conducted by Van Bothmer & __ found that females with higher social support showed higher levels of exercise. Thus, while women do workout to change their appearance, they also are more likely to workout with the support of a partner. This psychology of needing support in a fitness center applies to my personal observation that maybe women do not weight lift because of the intimidation of the male dominance in the free weight section. Because women exercise at higher levels when they do so with people they know, working out in a division of the fitness center with unfamiliar people may cause hesitation. In addition, women may be afraid of improperly completely weight-lifting exercises in front of the opposite sex or in front of more experienced weight lifters. As a college student gym goer, these thoughts have all crossed my mind when I have entered the free weight section at the UNC Charlotte Fitness Center. Conclusion It is true that males are more interested in weightlifting and females are more interested in losing weight. However, the reasons behind these goals can be dangerous to some extent. One can lose self-confidence, begin using drugs such as steroids, exercise to excess, to achieve these somewhat unhealthy and unrealistic bodies society has set for men and women. I truly believe in the phrase that knowledge is power thus, I feel that it is extremely important that both men and women understand the reasons why their fellow gym members may work out. An understanding of the opposite sexes' motives and fears could prevent males and females from being discouraged
Comment [ds18]: Replace “bodies” with “body images” or “body standard” as it makes more sense in the sentence Comment [ds17]: Check Narrative Example to see how your position should end. Can it be abrupt or do you need a “concluding” statement Comment [ds15]: Maybe use different phrase Comment [ds16]: Finish referencing this

9 EXPLORING THE REASONING BEHIND GENDER DIFFERENCES IN EXERCISE HABITS in using all aspects of the gym. Females may not hesitate to use weightlifting equipment in fear that they will be judged, and males may relinquish their fears of not exhibiting masculine behavior and instead use cardiovascular equipment. I hope my research helps inspire individuals to encourage the opposite sex to venture to "their section of the gym." By this I mean I hope to see males both respect females who chose to weight lift and also encourage other females to do the same. Vice versa, I hope to see females encourage males to utilize cardiovascular machines and respect men who decide to use them. A new respect may emerge in the gym, and more importantly, communication would improve between fitness members at the UNC Charlotte Fitness Center. The most effective communication at a gym occurs when members are courteous by asking if one is done with the machine and by asking for assistance in completing an exercise or in how to use a piece of equipment. With an understanding of other sexes goals and exercise habits there would be less tension between sexes at the gym and consequently, a unified ideology of working together and encouraging one another would emerge. With this bettered communication and newfound respect, I believe all members of the UNC Charlotte Fitness center would benefit by achieving greater results from their workout routines. I believe this ideology and gym make up at UNC Charlotte is much like much other University Fitness Center's or fitness centers with an abundance of adolescents and young adults. Ultimately, I hope to see other fitness centers utilize the research explaining the difference of exercise habits between men and women so that they may be able to create a more fluid dynamic between sexes in their facilities.
Comment [ds20]: Include ways for further research Comment [ds19]: Good that conclusion was short but to the point

10 EXPLORING THE REASONING BEHIND GENDER DIFFERENCES IN EXERCISE HABITS References Barry, A. E. , Whiteman, S., Piazza-Gardner A. K. , & Jensen, A. C. (2013). Gender differences in the associations among body mass index, weight loss, exercise, and drinking among college students. Journal of American College Health, 61:7, 407-413, DOI: 10.1080/07448481.2013.823973 Dove, T. M. (2013). An observation of the SAC fitness center. Retrieved from Furnham, A., Badmin, N., & Sneade, I. (2002). Body image dissatisfaction: Gender differences in eating attitudes, self-esteem, and reasons for exercise. Journal of Psychology, 136(6), 581-597. Hausenblas, H., & Stannard, P. (2002, October 23). Men more dependent on exercise than woman, UF study shows. Retrieved from exercisedependence/. Jonason, P. K. (2007). An evolutionary psychology perspective on sex differences in exercise behaviors and motivations. The Journal of social psychology, 147(1), 5-14. Murnen, S. K., Smolak, L., Mills, J. A., & Good, L. (2003). Thin, sexy women and strong, muscular men: Grade-school children's responses to objectified images of women and men. Sex Roles, 49(9-10), 427-437.

11 EXPLORING THE REASONING BEHIND GENDER DIFFERENCES IN EXERCISE HABITS Smith, B. L., Handley, P., & Eldredge, D. A. (1998). Sex differences in exercise motivation and body-image satisfaction among college students. Perceptual and motor skills, 86(2), 723732. Sorgen, C. (2004). When it comes to working out, men and women are from different planets. Retrieved from Spaulding, K. (2011, April 10). Sex Differences in Body Expectations and Exercise Habits: A study on sex differences related to body image and exercise. Retrieved from Von Bothmer, M. I. K. & Fridlund, B. (2005), Gender differences in health habits and in motivation for a healthy lifestyle among Swedish university students. Nursing & Health Sciences, 7: 107–118. doi: 10.1111/j.1442-2018.2005.00227.x