Understanding body image in physical education: current knowledge and future directions

Charlotte Kerner, Leen Haerens, David Kirk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
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Body image disturbance in children and adolescents has negative implications for psychological and physical well-being. To positively impact well-being, it is important to explore factors that influence body image and to identify strategies that can be used to reduce body image disturbance. The school curriculum can play a significant role in shaping how children and adolescents experience their bodies. Within this school curriculum, physical education lessons represent one of the only school subjects in which the body is a focus of curricular outcomes. In physical education, the body is judged for physical ability but is also situated in a space that provides the potential for social comparisons and body judgements. Significant attention has been paid to the development of classroom-based interventions that aim at reducing body image disturbance, yet physical education has largely been ignored as a context in which one can effectively intervene. This paper reviews current knowledge on the relationship between physical education and body image disturbance by using the cognitive-behavioural model of body image developments as a guiding framework. It also considers the contribution that physical education could make to wider school based interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-265
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Physical Education Review
Issue number2
Early online date13 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018


  • body image
  • physical education
  • body satisfaction
  • intervention
  • schools
  • children
  • adolescence
  • well-being

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