NOTE: This is the latest in a series of Q&A stories featuring Brock University faculty members who are integrating the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games into their research projects. For more information on Brock’s academic activities around the Games, visit brocku.ca/canada-games
Kimberley Gammage, Professor of Kinesiology in Brock’s Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, researches body image — and in particular, positive body image — and physical activity across diverse populations. She and her students try to understand factors that can improve positive body image and reduce negative body image, including exercise, yoga and educational approaches.
Sarah Galway is a PhD candidate in Applied Health Sciences (Behavioural and Population Health) who works with Gammage. Galway’s PhD research focuses on promoting positive body image and healthy public policy as part of Gammage’s Exercise Psychology and Body-Related Experiences Lab. Research in this lab focuses on how physical activity and other health behaviours can be used to promote positive body image experiences in diverse populations.
The Gammage-Galway team is one of eight Brock researchers and scholars who received funding under the 2021-22 round of the VPR Canada Games Grant program. Here, Gammage and Galway discuss their research project titled “Focusing on the positives: A test of the embodiment model of positive body image in elite athletes.”
Please give a brief overview of your research project.
Athletes can experience a variety of positive outcomes as a result of sport participation. Our research project is focused on understanding positive body image experiences in elite athletes, even though at times athletes may feel pressured to perform and look a certain way. Positive body image involves individuals loving and appreciating their bodies, especially for what they can do (functionality), as opposed to what they look like (appearance). Positive body image can help protect against low self-esteem, depression and disordered eating. Our research project will examine if competitive sport can contribute to positive body image experiences in elite athletes compared to recreational athletes and non-athletes.
What do you expect will be the outcome of your research?
We expect to find greater positive body image experiences in Canada’s top summer athletes, compared to recreational and non-athletes. We will also determine how competitive sport participation can lead to positive body image experiences in athletes by, for example, increasing a sense of connection to the body (embodiment).
How will this contribute to knowledge or understanding of the Canada Summer Games?
Elite athletes, including those competing in the Canada Summer Games, face unique pressures and challenges that can lead to negative body image outcomes. Our work will show how these same athletes can experience positive body image through their sport participation, which will ultimately allow athletes, researchers, coaches and other practitioners to foster positive body image in future athletes.
How did you become interested in this research?
Our research lab is focused on exploring ways to promote positive body image and healthy exercise motives in a variety of populations, including older adults, pregnant women, individuals with chronic conditions and disability. We value physical activity across the lifespan, and across all ability levels. The Canada Summer Games has allowed members of our lab to explore these topics in elite athletes.
How do you plan on sharing your research?
Findings from our research will be shared at the Canada Summer Games research showcase, through our lab Twitter account (@BrockBIPA), our lab website, publications in peer-reviewed journals and conference presentations. We will also present to teams, coaches and others involved with sport organizations who are interested in learning how to create positive body image experiences for themselves and others.
Do you have any advice or tips on how colleagues in your Faculty can incorporate the Canada Games into their research?
The Canada Summer Games brings an amazing opportunity for researchers to diversify their research into new populations and topics. Although our lab has generally examined positive body image related to exercise, the opportunity to study the impact of competitive sport will give us a better understanding of the importance of all types of physical activity. We encourage everyone to expand their research beyond current research programs. This can only enhance our knowledge and allow for new collaborations with colleagues and new opportunities to promote sport participation.