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Why and How Should I Exercise? A Content Analysis of Popular Magazines

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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 empha- sized 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 peer- reviewed 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 mo- tivation and behavior. Improved communication between researchers and popular magazines is needed to promote sharing of credible, evidence-based exercise content with the public.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Associate Professor, Department of Kinesiology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS;, Email: [email protected] 2: Graduate Research As- sistant, Department of Kinesiology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 3: Assistant Professor, Department of Kinesiology, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC

Publication date: March 1, 2019

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  • The American Journal of Health Behavior seeks to improve the quality of life through multidisciplinary health efforts in fostering a better understanding of the multidimensional nature of both individuals and social systems as they relate to health behaviors.

    The Journal aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of personal attributes, personality characteristics, behavior patterns, social structure, and processes on health maintenance, health restoration, and health improvement; to disseminate knowledge of holistic, multidisciplinary approaches to designing and implementing effective health programs; and to showcase health behavior analysis skills that have been proven to affect health improvement and recovery.

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