By Forbes on November 26, 2018

Fitspiration On Social Media: Is It Helping Or Hurting Your Health Goals?

Fitspiration On Social Media: Is It Helping Or Hurting Your Health Goals?

The hashtag #Fitspo is often seen on Instagram posts touting exercise, healthy living and clean food. It’s popular among celebrities, athletes, lifestyle gurus and people who are marketing their particular brand of ‘good for you’ products and services. The images that accompany #Fitspo are, as one might expect, of fit and healthy people doing fit and healthy things.

The question is; is this really inspirational or does it sabotage the average person as they work towards their own health goals? It seems as if the results are decidedly mixed.

One study has shown that people who were exposed to fitness related social media content were increasingly concerned with their own weight. This concern was aggravated when subjects were exposed to posts of people they perceived to be fitter than they were. According to Dr Anand Thakkar, Chief MD at Chicago Weight Loss Clinic, “more staggering was the fact that this effect was seen even when the nature of the fitness related posts were positive and encouraged healthy lifestyles. If it is well managed, this could be the motivation for viewers of such post to adopt healthier lifestyle choices when it comes to weight and fitness.”

Interestingly enough, this happened less frequently when the viewer perceived the poster as being at a higher fitness level than themselves. Instead, it was more likely for negative thoughts to occur among people who saw themselves at a similar fitness level to the individual making the fitness related post.

Social media can motivate people to exercise

Most people have at least one friend who shares that fitness-related content on social media. They may check into the gym, share details of their latest run, Or use fitness-related apps and wearables to share their workout accomplishments. As it turns out, this can have an immediate inspirational effect on others. Surprisingly, this seems to impact men more than women. Then we’re also motivated by both men and women while women were largely only motivated by other women.

This type of sharing on social media also brings out the competitive nature among people. however, people seeking this type of inspiration should consider looking towards people with similar Fitness levels. This is where the inspiration seems to be the most powerful.

Of course inspiration and motivation only represent part of the role that social-media plays in health and fitness. It has also become a source of information and education related to all-things wellness and fitness: more than 40% of users indicate that information found on social media affects the way they approach their health.

Social media users are increasingly relying on fitness influencers and brands and the information they provide. For example, Dr. John Jaquish, the inventor of X3 Bar, runs a lot of educational content on his personal and company accounts. He says, “There is a lot more mis-information in fitness on social media and even in articles, than scientifically validated information. We are trying to present real research and couple that with common sense explanations and advice that can be applied directly to your workout and it’s helping people achieve massive fitness transformations.”

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Additionally, being part of social media fitness groups encourages more people to finally take action and start participating in certain health activities – joining a running club, signing up for a yoga class and so on. Social fitness applications further amplify that desire to participate and perform three important roles according to Prof. BJ Fogg: “they motivate people, the various interactions act as triggers for action; and sharing information and tips can increase ability”.

Not all users know how to discern what is good information and what isn’t

It’s clear that diet and fitness related posts on social media have an impact. They can motivate people to change behaviors and purchase products. Unfortunately, much of the advice is problematic. Nutritionists are concerned with The fact that so much dietary advice shared on social media is conflicting. This can do to make people to adopt dietary plans that are overly restrictive and otherwise unhealthy.

It doesn’t help matters that many of the people who have positioned themselves as being fitness influencers aren’t necessarily qualified to provide wellness advice. Instead, their posts may be motivated by a desire to promote certain products or simply to further their personal brands. Then there’s the fact that so many fitness-related influencers have access to resources that the average person does not. This can skew expectations in terms of results.

As it turns out, fitness inspiration posts can have a positive impact on social media audiences. They can stir up a competitive nature and motivate people to increase their efforts during their workouts. On the other hand there are some concerning factors as well. These pills can lead to unhealthy thoughts about weight and there’s will concern about the spread of misinformation. It’s important that people seeking advice and inspiration find sources that are reliable and can be counted on to share accurate information.

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