Does The Biggest Loser make you the biggest couch potato? How motivational weight-loss shows put viewers OFF the idea of exercise

Does The Biggest Loser make you the biggest couch potato How motivational weight-loss shows put viewers OFF the idea of exercise

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UPDATED:

18:12 GMT, 31 October 2012

A study has found that The Biggest Loser actually puts viewers off the idea of trading in the sofa for a gym membership - pictured contestant Adrian Dortch

A study has found that The Biggest Loser puts viewers off exercise – pictured US contestant
Adrian Dortch being put through his paces

Despite the motivational lectures and psych-up speeches typical of weight-loss reality shows, a new study has found that The Biggest Loser actually puts viewers off the idea of trading in the sofa for a gym membership.

Researchers at the University of Alberta, Canada's Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation asked participants in their study to watch a seven-minute clip of the NBC show and a separate control group to watch a clip of American Idol.

Answers to a series of questions and tests immediately following among those who watched The Biggest Loser revealed notably negative attitudes towards exercise compared to those who had watched 'Idol'.

The findings prompt questions about the way transformation-themed reality shows promote physical exercise and health and whether they do more harm than good when viewers are faced with crying, vomiting contestants.

Lead study author Tanya Berry and Canada Research Chair in Physical Activity Promotion explained to Science Daily: 'The depictions of exercise on shows like The Biggest Loser are really negative.'

'People are screaming and crying and throwing up, and if you're not a regular exerciser you might think this is what exercise is – that it's this horrible experience where you have to push yourself to the extremes and the limits, which is completely wrong.'

Participants were asked to write down the first five thoughts that sprang to mind on watching the clips and fill out a computerised questionnaire.

Mr Berry found that regardless of the subjects' own exercise habits and weight, 'people who watched The Biggest Loser had worse attitudes about physical activity than those who watched the American Idol clip.'

Researchers at the University of Alberta asked participants in their study to watch a seven-minute clip of the NBC show and a separate control group to watch a clip of American Idol

Researchers at the University of Alberta asked participants in their study to watch a seven-minute clip of the NBC show and a separate control group to watch a clip of American Idol

Responding to claims that motivational shows in the popular media encourage and inspire viewers to get healthy and active, she added: 'There's a lot of effort and good work out there just to get people more active, but it's such a small voice in this big wash of different depictions of exercise.

'It's a big mess.'

The next phase of the study will focus on clips of the Biggest Loser contestants as they meet their challenges and achieve their weight loss goals.

Researchers will be looking to see if their new-found enjoyment of exercise corresponds the study participants' view of exercise.