Health and Physical Education (HPE) teachers are known to be under social-, personal-, and employment-related pressure to be and appear physically fit, and to use dangerous dieting and weight control practices. This is problematic due to the influence this may have on their own health and the potential to model these attitudes and behaviours to their future students.
In this paper, we compare the body image, dieting, disordered eating, and exercise behaviours of first year, HPE, and non-HPE, teacher education students. Participants were 596 first-year university student pre-service teachers (n = 249 HPE and n = 347 non-HPE) from three universities in Australia who completed self-report questionnaires. Analysis of covariance and logistic regression analyses were used to determine differences in attitudes and behaviours between these two groups for males and females separately.
We found that male HPE participants had significantly higher levels of drive for muscularity and obligatory exercise, and were more likely to be classified as having an exercise disorder, dieting, and using steroids than non-HPE students were. Female HPE students were more likely to engage in self-reported excessive exercise, to have higher scores on the Obligatory Exercise Questionnaire, and be classified as having an exercise disorder.
These findings are important as they confirm the presence of dieting and disordered eating attitudes and behaviours among all teacher education students, and highlight male HPE teachers as a potentially vulnerable group. These results may inform the implementation of intervention programs for teacher education students to ensure their personal wellbeing and professional capacity in promoting positive body image, nutrition, and physical activity among young people.