Science News

Life drawing boosts body confidence

Fri, 11th Dec 2015

Felicity Bedford

Attending life drawing classes improves your body image, new research has found.Life Drawing

If there is something you don't like about your body, you're in good company. Ninety per cent of us have experienced moments of low body confidence at some point, a feeling that can be associated with depression, anxiety and eating disorders.

Participating in physical activities, such as dance and martial arts, has been shown to improve your body confidence. However, if you are feeling less energetic and more artistic, life drawing has just been added to the list.

After attending life drawing classes, Professor Viren Swami from Anglia Ruskin University carried out two studies to see if participating in life drawing activities as an artist could improve body confidence.

The first study looked at 75 women and 63 men who already attended life drawing classes. They were asked to estimate how many life drawing classes they had attended in their lifetimes.

Body confidence was assessed using three measures - drive for thinness in women, and muscularity in men; positive body image, which is a measure of body acceptance, and social physique anxiety, which is concern about how your body is perceived by others.

Women who had attended more life drawing classes had higher body confidence using all three measures. More experienced male life drawers also saw an improvement, but only in their "positive body image".

The second study followed a group of 37 women who had never attended life drawing classes before. They were asked about their body image before and after attending a life drawing class.

The life drawing class was associated with an immediate positive effect on the way the women perceived their bodies.

The long term and short term benefits identified in the two studies are attributed to an embodiment process.

"Embodiment is any activity that promotes greater respect for your body or greater feelings of love and openness towards your body," Swami explains. "Typically, embodiment is looked at in terms of actually doing something, so, for example, you might actually do dance rather than just watching dance."

Life drawing might be the exception to this as by drawing a body you are exploring the anatomy of different bodies in great detail. The classes might also provide a safe space to explore feelings about your own body.

In life drawing sessions you're exposed to a range of different types of bodies which helps to normalise bodies, challenging the unrealistic body norms often presented in the media.

Professor Swami stresses that it's not just about being exposed to naked bodies. "I think it's the process of engaging with nudity and exploring what that nudity means either in an aesthetic sense or in relation to your own self that is probably the key..."


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