Research shows that fitness-related posts can weigh on followers’ self esteem.
Exercise posts can be so extra.
People are pumped about sharing their fitness journeys on social media; it keeps them accountable, or they want to motivate others, or they’re looking for some love after they’ve sweat through a HIIT workout or finished a 10K.
But sadly, these #fitspo posts are often more annoying than they are inspiring. As recent New Year’s resolutions have motivated many people to hit the gym again, plenty of social media users are suffering from #riseandgrind and #fitsagram fatigue.
When will posting healthy recipes and workout videos to instagram stop? Please say soon.
— Seth Gronewold (@sgronewold93) January 27, 2018
All the respect to people in tip top shape, but how is them posting non stop videos of workouts (#DoucheChills) any different than the Jehovah Witness you hate coming to the door preaching to you
— Dave McLintock (@davemclintock) February 4, 2018
Janis Isaman, the owner of My Body Couture studio in Calgary, posts few pictures of her WODs on Instagram because, “I don’t personally think #fitspo is very inspiring,” she told Moneyish.
“It puts a lot of pressure on people to do showy things in unreasonable locations,” she explained. “It is negatively influencing culture to believe that ‘fitness’ equals a blonde thin white woman with big lips and long hair doing yoga on the beach, or yoga on a mountain — none of which relay a realistic setting, body type or fitness program for almost anyone except the Instagram stars.”
Darryl Whiting founded Bull By The Horns fitness in New York City. Yet even this personal trainer is over most of the workout posts he sees on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
“Social media is a highlight reel: You see a lot of fitness fads and aesthetics, and not a lot of posts that are science-based or fact-based,” Whiting, 27, told Moneyish. “So when you see a post, you can take it as, ‘Oh, I’m going to look like her one day!’ — or, more often, it’s ‘Damn, I look like s—.’
These are not haters; they’re human. A recent study out of Texas State University and the University of Arizona found that the more exercise-related posts people see on social media, the more concerned they become about their own weight, which can hurt their self esteem — especially if the subjects see themselves as being very similar to the poster.
“It’s complicated. If you compare yourself to the most fit person, whom you consider ‘superior’ to you, that can motivate you,” Dr. Tricia Burke, an assistant professor at Texas State University, told Moneyish. And that’s spawned a $30 billion health and fitness industry in the U.S., and an army of fitness influencers on social media that can earn $25,000 per Instagram post.
But there’s a dark side to broadcasting these sweat sessions. “If you see posts from other people in your social network that you think you’re similar to, you might start thinking, ‘I should be out there exercising like them,’ or, ‘I should be conscious about my fitness like them,’” Dr. Burke added. “And that can be alarming when you think about problem behaviors [eating disorders or exercise addiction] that are aligned with unhealthy weight concerns.”
While she wants to do more research into what makes an update encouraging versus discouraging, a 2015 London study found that people who share their workouts, diets and achievements frequently on Facebook are more likely to be narcissists. While the researchers noted that this boasting “pays off” because these kinds of posts receive more likes and comments than any other status updates, they wrote, “it could be that their Facebook friends politely offer support while secretly disliking such egotistical displays.”
Dr. Burke suggests taking a more humble approach to win your followers over. “Post about exercise in a way that is approachable to other people, so they can feel like they can make those behavioral changes, too,” she said. “Or explain why you are making the exercise post, like ‘I’m looking for a workout buddy’ or ‘I want to encourage you, because I had a hard time getting off of the couch, too.’”
Meryl K. Evans from Plano, Texas never used to post her workouts before because, “I didn’t think others would be interested, or they would be annoyed,” she told Moneyish.
But then she joined the OrangeTheory Fitness studio, which rewards social media check-ins at the gym by donating to a new charity every month. So for example, 30 check-ins added up to one tissue-typing test for a patient with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. And after explaining this to her followers, Evans told Moneyish she’s felt a lot of love online.
“Several people have commented they find my posts inspiring,” she said, noting that her childhood best friend even joined her local OrangeTheory studio. “Some people just go so overboard with their praises, compliments, or brag-fests. I try to be inclusive and tone things down.”
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