Social media has significantly impacted the way we connect with other people, how we communicate, and how we express ourselves. Most American adults have at least one social media profile, and more and more people are turning to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest as an easy way to keep in touch.

 The world of fitness has certainly been impacted by social media. People are increasingly turning to social media to find out information on health, fitness and wellness. Many people are also using social media for their health and fitness goals.

 On the plus side

Social media has had several positive effects on people’s health and fitness.

  1. It provides easy access to a constant stream of information on anything we like, including everything to do with losing weight, getting fit, or making changes to your health regime. From recipes for low-fat meals to instructions on how best to do a sit up, the information available on the Internet is mind-blowing.
  1. You can easily track your progress with apps like Map My Run and Lose It!. And a FitBit will track your steps, as well as allowing you to enter meal information and your weight loss aims. Tracking your progress will make it more likely for you to reach your goals more quickly. You can also connect to friends with the same app or tracker for support and connection.

A sense of community: Research shows that people who post wellness- and fitness-related social media content derive a sense of community. It’s no longer necessary to be with someone in person to connect with them.

 Now you can share your experiences, ask questions, and stay accountable to a new network of people on a similar journey. Your trainer, who should hold personal training certifications, will be able to keep track of your progress. 

 On the down side

 The influence of social media on health and fitness is not all positive, though. It can be downright negative.

Negative comparisons: The problem with everyone posting pictures of themselves and others looking “buff” is that we’re constantly comparing ourselves to them. We have to keep reminding ourselves that social media, in many ways, isn’t “reality.”

 Social influencers, and frankly most people, post only their most flattering pictures, after the application of clever filters.

 The truth is, most people don’t actually look as perfect as they might seem in pictures. These influencers also have resources available to them that us mere mortals don’t. Anyone can look good with lots of makeup and clever camera work. Don’t be fooled.

Despondency: Linked to negatively comparing yourself to others is the despondency that comes from constantly feeling “not good enough.” Because perfection is impossible, we need to adjust our expectations to more realistic goals.

 Be choosy about who you follow, and don’t hesitate to unfollow someone who makes you feel inadequate or negative. Follow only those who motivate you, and try to find people who inspire you with realistic advice and images, rather than ludicrously unrealistic content. 

Lots of “advice” on social media is problematic, and often comes from people unqualified to advise others on health- and wellness-related issues. Diet advise, for example, can lead people to adopt overly-restrictive or unhealthy eating plans. Or, they could be trying to persuade you to buy their product.

 While fitness inspiration posts on social media can motivate people towards putting more effort into their workouts, they can have a negative impact. These kinds of posts can lead us to focus more on matters of weight and fitness that is good for us.