Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the ugliest of us all?
Wall-to-wall mirrors in gyms and dance studios might stop women getting the exercise they need because women who work out in front of a mirror get discouraged and feel tired, Canadian researchers said.
The study, published in the journal Health Psychology, focused on young women who exercised less than 15 minutes a week. It found that, regardless of how they viewed their bodies, women who worked out in front of a mirror felt worse, or no better, and less at peace after 20 minutes of activity.
"The mirrors make women more self-aware, they think of their shortcomings. Things like: 'I look fat, I should be more active'," said Kathleen Martin Ginis, lead author of the study, and a professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario."When women are more introspective, they might feel 'I'm not that great' unfortunately."
The survey questioned 58 women with an average age of 22--young enough to be concerned about body image.
Participants took turns on stationary bicycles, working out either in front of a mirror or with the mirror curtained over.
And whether the participant felt comfortable about her body or not, the outcome was the same--women who did not have to watch themselves exercise felt calmer, more positive and more revitalized at the end of their session.
Still, Martin Ginis stressed that mirrors can be positive and functional. "I don't want to convey the idea that we should rip out gym mirrors," she said, noting that exercisers often needed to see their form, or assess if they are using the correct muscles groups during strength training.
But things were different for beginners. "For beginner exercisers, mirrors can be daunting," she said.
Martin Ginis suggested gyms provide areas without mirrors to encourage novice exercisers.
"Women don't need to exercise in a gym," she said. "Thirty minutes of walking, or hiking is good too. There are other ways to get your exercise."