How Social Media Can Cheer Us On
by Tamara Grand
Humans are inherently social creatures. Most of us enjoy the company of others and spend much of our waking time engaging in social interactions with colleagues, friends and family. People that spend a lot of time together often adopt one another’s eating and exercise habits—sometimes for the better, but often for the worse.
At least one positive side to wishing to conform socially is unexpected. Finding the right circle of friends—our own personal support group—can make sticking to an exercise schedule or diet easier. It’s a key factor in the popularity of organized weight-loss groups and exercise classes.
Studies published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology and the Journal of Obesity demonstrate that just having a weight-loss or fitness support system in place results in better adherence to diet and exercise with more pounds shed and kept off over the long term. Researchers believe that in addition to the motivation and accountability supporters provide, benefits are also enhanced by learning through observing; changing our behavior through watching the actions and outcomes of others’ behavior.
If we don’t have physical access to a local support group, we can access one online or create our own, using one of the following social media platforms.
Facebook: The leading social networking website includes thousands of community and group pages devoted to weight loss, exercise and healthy living. Its search function helps find one that fits our needs. Make an introduction and join the discussion. Participating in a special challenge helps everyone stay motivated.
Twitter: This micro-blogging site is informal and fast-paced, providing nearly instantaneous feedback. Use Twitter to identify friends with similar health and fitness goals. Follow links to motivational photos, low-calorie recipes and at-home workouts. Tweeting when feeling the urge to eat virtually guarantees that we’ll receive a helpful response in a minute or two. Twitter chats are also a fabulous way to connect with an established and helpful healthy living tribe.
Pinterest: A visual smorgasbord of clean-eating recipes, at-home workouts and inspirational photos keeps spirits up. Pinterest accesses photos throughout the Internet that we can grab and “pin” to a personal online vision board. It’s also possible to create a visual cookbook, pinning recipes to, for example, clean eating, Paleo, pumpkin and oatmeal themed boards. It’s fun to connect with our favorite healthy living peeps and start following their boards for continuous injections of inspiration and motivation.
Instagram: Love to take photos using a smartphone? Instagram provides a platform for sharing snippets of our day via pictures. Fitness fans regularly “Instagram” their meals and workouts, in part to remain accountable to their online followers, but also to help motivate themselves and others to make healthy choices each day.
YouTube: Our go-to resource for music videos is also home to hundreds of healthy living “channels”. Want to follow someone’s 100-pound weight-loss journey, learn how to cook quinoa or follow along with free, at-home workout videos? This is the place. Watch, share and comment on a favorite YouTuber’s videos to become part of their online community.
The key to using social media to improve our health and fitness is inherent in the name. It’s a friendly way to interact, participate and engage with others.
Tamara Grand, Ph.D., is a certified personal trainer and a group fitness and indoor cycling instructor in Port Moody, British Columbia, in Canada. Her new book is Ultimate Booty Workouts. She contributes to Life.Gaiam.com and blogs at FitKnitChick.com.