The Relationship between Compulsive Exercise, Self-Esteem, Body Image and Body Satisfaction in Women: A Cross-Sectional Study

Juncal Ruiz-Turrero, Karlijn Massar, Dominika Kwasnicka, Gill A. Ten Hoor*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Web of Science)


PURPOSE: In this study, we aimed to test the relationship between compulsive exercise and self-esteem, body image, and body satisfaction as potential predictors of eating disorders.

METHODS: Self-report measures of compulsive exercise beliefs and behaviors, self-esteem, body image, and body satisfaction, were completed by 120 female participants through an online questionnaire. Factor analyses with varimax rotation were performed to create exercise-frequency groups. ANOVA's were performed on Body Mass Index (weight adjusted for height squared, BMI), current minus ideal weight, self-esteem, body image, and body satisfaction to determine if there were differences depending on these exercise groups.

RESULTS: Factor analysis revealed two factors for compulsive exercise beliefs and behaviors: (1) Exercise Fixation, and (2) Exercise Frequency and Commitment. Based on those factors, participants were subdivided into four clusters: (1) pathological obligatory exercisers, (2) exercise fixators, (3) committed exercisers, and (4) non-exercisers. No differences were found between these groups for BMI or current minus ideal weight. Pathological obligatory exercisers and committed exercisers spend significantly more hours on exercise weekly compared to exercise fixators or non-exercisers. No differences between pathological obligatory exercisers, exercise fixators, and non-exercisers were found on self-esteem or body satisfaction, where the committed exercisers scored significantly better. Both committed exercisers and non-exercisers scored significantly better on body image flexibility compared to pathological obligatory exercisers and exercise fixators.

CONCLUSION: Compulsive exercise has both an exercise volume and an emotional component. The level of compulsive exercise is linked to one's self-esteem, body image, and body satisfaction and those factors could be a target for future interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1857
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2022


  • body image
  • body satisfaction
  • compulsive exercise
  • physical activity
  • self-esteem

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