Social networks evolved out of a desire to connect and share in a new way with people already in our lives, then further evolved as a way to reach out to new people we want to add to our lives, sometimes both online and off. Using these networks to seek out those with similar goals and struggles for both accountability and support is a natural extension of this; finding advice, commiseration, or just about anything else having to do with health and fitness is now just a couple of clicks away.
Every social network is what you make of it, and we wanted to take a look at how people are using them for support networks.
Using Twitter to support fitness endeavors
January is the month we all promise ourselves we’re going to get back into shape after an extensive treat-yourself-holiday-season, but most of us don’t follow through even though support is just a tweet or post away. In fact, one study showed that Twitter helped participants lose more weight. Fitness bloggers create Twitter lists of other fitness-centric accounts to follow, and join in fitness tweet chats like #FitBlog and #FitStudio.
And what about other social media?
Communities of fitness enthusiasts exist on every platform. On Tumblr and Instagram you can find like-minded fitness folks to follow, particularly through exploring hashtags related to fitness. Fitness-focused Pinterest boards cover everything from suggested workouts of the day to healthy meal recipes, desired fitness equipment, and more.
One of the most popular fitness-related tags on any site is #fitspo, meaning fitness inspiration. A quick search on Instagram alone shows over 6 million #fitspo-tagged photos, and we’ve looked at the size of the Tumblr fitness community- or “fitblr”- before as well. While the basic premise behind fitspo is to stay motivated by sharing inspiring photos of fit models, athletes, or regular people (along with meals, progress, inspirational/motivational phrases, and more), the practice has come under fire for focusing more on the aesthetics of the bodies being shown rather than the physical work and accomplishments of the people to whom the bodies belong.
A social media counter-culture has arisen to combat this, however. For example, Tumblr user The Exercist works to combat problematic fitspo by using a tag the blog invented- #reclaimingfitspo- and encouraging other Tumblr users to post photos that show athletes or other people in action and relating their accomplishments below. The Exercist also writes posts to combat harmful or dangerous fitness myths, shares sources so readers can find more information, and points out when popular fitspo images have been Photoshopped.
On Instagram, many fitspo posters will share photos with those who belong to the same gym or running group as them with the tag #fitfam, meaning “fitness family”. This brings real world support in the form of workout buddies to social media; your fitfam might now include people who are several states or even countries away, offering an extra dose of support. Other tags often used for fitness include: #MondayMotivation, #TuesdayTransformation, #WednesdayWorkout, #Fitness, and #FitnessAddict.
As for social platforms that solely focus on fitness, there are options like Fitocracy (which has both a site and an app), MyFitnessPal, or the new Instagram-compatible app FitSnap that adds workout stats to your photos you can then share on Instagram or elsewhere. Wearables with social aspects are also hitting the market: Fitbit, Nike+ FuelBand, Jawbone Up, and a host of others. You can even put your money where your mouth is with GymPact and earn cash for your workouts– or pay out when you don’t. CNN covered a whole range of fitness devices and apps in an article last summer, along with discussing the psychological motivation that comes from social fitness shares.
If it’s accountability you’re looking for in your fitness journey, you no longer have to look much further than the device screen nearest you.