Can social media help you stay fit?

Can social media help you stay fit?

Who said staring at a computer or a Smartphone was bad for you? Research has now shown that people who receive regular supportive text or social media messages are more likely to stay motivated about exercising.

A study into behaviour change presented by the British Psychological Society Division of Sport & Exercise Psychology (DSEP) shows that the levels of exercise on novices can be boosted thanks to supported text messages twice a week.

So it might just pay to get your friends involved in that new fitness programme you’ve promised yourself you’ll stick to.

Friends are a great motivational tool for many reasons – they open us up to the notion of healthy competition, as well as staying positive when we might be feeling less than enthusiastic. And doing activities with friends, be it a fitness class or a jog around the block, makes us feel that someone relies on us for support as well.

Social networking has long been known to be the platform where you get to boast about all the great things you’ve been doing, and to portray yourself in the most positive light you can. But this new research has shown that simple messages, such as a simple “well done” or “good luck” message, can really spur us on.

The study was undertaken by Florence-Emilie Kinnafick of University of Northampton, and Cecilie Thogersen-Ntoumani of University of Birmingham and they examined the impact on which text messages could have on the exercise levels of beginner exercisers. Sixty women and five men were put in one of two groups, with one receiving supportive messages twice a week, and the other group receiving neutral comments without the supportive element.

Those who received the supportive texts took on more moderate exercise over a four month timeframe and said they felt more supported in their activities.

Florence-Emilie Kinnafick said: “Text messages are relatively inexpensive and can reach a large portion of the population. Therefore, using supportive text messages could be a useful, efficient, and effective addition to current programmes aimed at increasing levels of physical activity in those individuals new to exercise”. 

Fitocracy, Map My Fitness, and other apps available are now helping us to shout about our fitness goals even louder, and offer a platform where people can share data, engage with other fitness-minded people, and most importantly offer help and support.

It’s an age-old question as to what can keep us motivated to keep up our New Year fitness ideals, but motivation is most definitely key to success. If people feel that others are interested in their endeavours then they are more likely to work harder at getting the results they set out to achieve.

Being social creatures means we like to know that other people are paying attention and supporting us through challenges that we face.

When we sometimes can’t get to exercise with others, at least the idea of a supportive text or social media messages makes us feel like we are part of something bigger. It’s similar to the idea of training for a big event like the London Marathon. If you are running for charity then you’ll receive regular supportive literature through the post, texts, and invites to training days where you can really feel part of a team. It’s like we need to feel that we belong to a bigger group in order to push ourselves to the limits.

Social media has had a lot of bad press for reasons where people are targeted and bullied, but it can be used for good if used in the right way. 

Encouragement, support and motivation from friends and relatives, and even from people you’ve never met before can all make you work harder at achieving those fitness dreams, where otherwise we might feel like what’s the point? And drop out on our regime in the first week.

So many obstacles lie in our way in modern life for people to shun exercise and take the easy option to take the car instead of walk, eat fast food rather than cook from fresh, but one thing we are all surrounded by now is technology, and if we can make it work for us, then so much the better.

Perhaps if we all received more encouragement through text messages, Facebook and Twitter, then we would be more fired up to achieve our goals and our “New Year’s Resolutions” to achieve that beach body by working hard at the gym.

With enough support rather than ditching those resolutions we’ll all be happier and healthier in 2014 through receiving kind words and encouragement. All it takes sometimes is a little help from your friends, and sometimes just a little help from whoever is happy to listen – and to text you some support as well!


Tom D.
24 January 2014

Tom D.

Instead of messing about on social media surely you should just get out there and do it? It's just another way of wasting time.

Tanya M.
23 January 2014

Tanya M.

I was inspired to start running after followers on Twitter told me their stories. It got me started on the Couch25K programme and from there I started going to my local gym. I would never have started exercising if it wasn't for social media - it worked for me!

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