Super-fit women make us feel worse about our bodies

IMAGES of super-fit women on social media -- even when they are attempting to encourage others to exercise or eat healthier -- could be doing more harm than good, according to new research.

The "fitspiration" images were analysed in a study involving 322 women at the University of the Sunshine Coast.

There are more than 27 million image posts on Instagram tagged as "fitspo".

Those involved in the psychology study were also shown fit and toned models doing active things, and photographs of the classic thin models used in fashion magazines.

USC Lecturer in Psychology Dr Kate Mulgrew said the super-fit women made others feel "just as bad or even worse" about their bodies than even the fashion models.

While the fitness images are meant to intended to encourage a healthier body image, she said the opposite appeared to be true.

"There's a belief that fitness images create a better ideal to work towards, rather than just being thin," she said.

"However, we found the women who viewed the fitness models actually felt worse about themselves than did the women who viewed the traditional models.

"Exercising and being fit are important things for women to work towards, but these fitness images should not automatically be seen as less harmful to body image."

A photo posted by Welcome! (@familiarfitness) on

"It's still only one body shape that's being presented, not a range of shapes. The fitness image is still a slim, toned, attractive model," she said.

"Many women see it and think 'well, I'm not that fit or flexible or toned'."

"This study shows that women should value the body for more than just what it looks like," she said.

"Women should engage in a healthy lifestyle, but don't take fitness models as another ideal to aspire to."

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