Male body obsession on the rise

Article date: 16 March 2006

British men are under more pressure than ever before to lookgood and are becoming increasingly critical of their own bodies, anew study reveals today.

Norwich Union Healthcare’s "Mr Vain" study, which surveyedover 500 men, suggests that a third of men hate their stomachs, 20%are unhappy with their legs and a quarter admit they have issueswith their entire body.

Aspiring to the male celebrity physique appears to be fuelling thisnew trend. The research found that England captain David Beckhamhas the body most men aspire to (22%), followed by Brad Pitt (12%)and Welsh rugby hero Gavin Henson (9%).

But it’s not just celebrities who are influencing the wayBritish men feel about their bodies - a quarter of men (26%) admittheir partner puts pressure on them to work out and keep theirbodies in shape.

Health and fitness expert Dean Hodgkin, said: “Men’sattitudes to their bodies are changing. They have always focused onbuilding muscles but other trends are beginning to emerge. Now itseems men exercise because they’re keen to lose weight (14%)or feel guilty about over-indulging (32%), and it could beaffecting their overall health and fitness.”

The pressure to look good is even leading men to fool themselvesand others about their levels of fitness. The study found that aquarter of men lie to partners and mates about how often theyexercise or go to the gym, while over a third (36%) exaggerate howmuch they can lift and one in five lie about their weight.

Dean Hodgkin continued: “By putting pressure on themselvesand being unrealistic about their fitness levels, men could bedoing themselves more harm than good when exercising and workingout. Men need to understand that it’s all about being in tunewith your own body, not comparing yourself with others or trying tolook like somebody else.”

Dean Hodgkin advises men not to focus on their looks but on theirhealth as a whole. They should seek advice from health and fitnessexperts on how to achieve a healthy lifestyle and therefore feelmore confident about their bodies.

With this in mind, Dean has developed some top tips:

  • Don’t be too self-critical – it’s good to berealistic about your body but don’t get too obsessiveabout your looks
  • Don’t compare yourself with others – you need to bein tune with your own body if you want to feel good aboutyourself
  • Consult a fitness instructor about developing a health andfitness programme tailored to your body and your needs
  • Remember, there’s nothing like a bit of cardiovascularexercise to release endorphins, the "happy hormones", and giveyou a confidence and mood boost
  • Become your own personal trainer and health advisor by usingNorwich Union Healthcare’s Personal Health Manager anddeveloping a realistic action plan to improve your health andwellbeing

Norwich Union Healthcare’s PersonalHealth Manager is a unique online resource offering a variety ofservices including advice on lifestyle, health and exercise, ahealth planner and a 24-hour helpline. Simply log on to more details and a free one month trial.

Dr Doug Wright, spokesperson for Norwich Union Healthcare,commented: “Men are clearly feeling pressure from all sidesto look good and this is resulting in them becoming very criticalof their own bodies. Men need to regain their body confidence andremember that it’s about developing a healthy body bothinside and out and not about living up to anyone’sexpectations but their own.”


Media contacts:
Zoƫ Miller, Lexis PR,020 7908 6413,
Chris Lauwerys, Lexis PR, 020 7908 6465,

Norwich Union Press Office contacts:
Lorna Wiltshire020 7662 1013 or 07800 695 150
Cheryl Cox 01904 452617 or 07800 695 275
James Evans 01904 452791 or 07800 699 525

Notes to editors:

Case studies available on request.

ICM Research interviewed a random sample of 500 men aged 18+ bytelephone. Interviews were conducted across the country and theresults have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM is amember of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.Further information at

About Norwich Union Healthcare
Norwich Union Healthcarewas founded in 1990 as the healthcare arm of Norwich Union and nowprovides a range of income protection and private medical insuranceproducts that cover over 870,000 lives. It is one of the largestproviders of income protection and private medical insurance in theUK.

Norwich Union acquired Occupational Health provider, Private HealthCare, on 01 October 2005. We now offer an extensive range ofoccupational health services to corporate clients. These servicesare delivered by Norwich Union Occupational Health Ltd.

Norwich Union Healthcare is authorised and regulated by theFinancial Services Authority and is a member of the Association ofBritish Insurers and the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Norwich Union’s news releases and a selection of images areavailable from Aviva’s internet press centre at

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