- 73% of Brits believe society’s obsession with the perfect body image is damaging our mental health.
- 80% feel demotivated by exercise transformation imagery as the UK is revealed as the most insecure nation in European poll.
- 48% feel insecure about their bodies after seeing exercise transformation pictures.
New research1 conducted by ASICS reveals the damaging impact of exercise-transformation pictures on the UK’s mental health. The study finds that nearly three-quarters (73%) of Brits believe society’s obsession with the perfect body is damaging our mental health, 80% are demotivated by exercise transformation images and nearly half (48%) feel insecure about their bodies after seeing ‘before and after’ images.
The research is unveiled as part of a new ASICS campaign that looks to challenge society’s focus on exercising for aesthetic transformations. Supported by A&E Doctor and TV Personality Dr Alex George, Creator and Philanthropist Jada Sezer, as well as TV Host and Professional Dancer Motsi Mabuse, ASICS is disrupting the before and after exercise picture format to highlight the transformative power of exercise on the mind.
Regular physical activity is proven to improve mental health. It uplifts mood, improves sleep, helps manage stress and can also reduce the risk of depression2 However, the culture of exercise transformation pictures is putting people off exercising with over 80% of people across the UK claiming to be demotivated to exercise after seeing these images.
In comparison to their European neighbors, Brits are some of the most insecure people in Europe with 53% feeling insecure about themselves, compared to 45% in Germany and 43% in France, and almost 60% say they’re tired of seeing so many perfect bodies on their social feed as it’s not reality for most people.
The series of images shot by photographer Sophie Harris-Taylor show each celebrity before and after 15 minutes and 9 seconds of exercise, the length of time proven to lift our mental state3. There is, of course, no dramatic physical change between the two images, highlighting that not all exercise transformations are visible. These pictures aim to challenge people’s perceptions of dramatic exercise transformations and encourage exercise for the mental health benefits, not purely the aesthetic.
Dr Alex George, Jada Sezer and Motsi Mabuse also sat down with Mind Charity representative, Hayley Jarvis, to discuss the damaging impact of body transformation images and how exercise has improved their mental health.
Speaking about his own experience with exercise, Dr Alex George said: “I have been on a real journey with exercise and the reasons why I do it. When I was younger, I really used exercise as a weapon, to try and look thin, to look a certain way. When I went on Love Island a few years later, I was over training, and it wasn’t good for my mental health. Now, I’ve changed the way I view exercise and it’s really helped my mental health. I move for my mind, rather than to look a certain way.”
Jada Sezer commented: “It’s great that ASICS is challenging the use of body transformation pictures because for me it’s never been about a physical transformation, more of a mental transformation. If I feel good mentally, then I’ve achieved my goal. No pain, no gain, has never resonated with me, it’s always been about how it makes me feel, not look. And I’m proud to be part of a campaign that represents this.”
The research by ASICS also found that 82% of women agree that society’s obsession with the perfect body is bad for people’s mental health and an additional 64% of women agree that body transformation images should be banned from social media.
Gary Raucher, EVP, ASICS EMEA said: “The culture of ‘body transformation’ images, driven largely through social media, has conditioned society to view exercise through the lens of physical change. At ASICS, we believe the true benefit of sport and movement goes beyond the body to also uplift the mind. That’s why we’re called ASICS – Anima Sana in Corpore Sano, or a Sound Mind in a Sound Body.
“Committing to this cause, ASICS EMEA will not post exercise transformation pictures that focus purely on aesthetic transformation on its channels. Our community is committed to only sharing images that reflect the uplifting feeling movement brings: the powerful mental and emotional impact of exercise on the whole self – body and mind.”
Hayley Jarvis, Head of Physical Activity at Mind, added: “Mind is a firm believer in the power of movement, however small, to support better mental health. Our aim is to support more people to get active to help them to thrive. Our own research shows that many people are put off exercising because they feel self-conscious. The more we can do to remove the barriers to people enjoying the benefits of exercise, the better.”
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1 The independent research was conducted amongst 5,378 people aged 16+ in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and France by ASICS in September 2022. 1,030 of these participants are from the UK.
2 https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/physical- activity-and your-mental-health/about-physical-activity/