[image via Buzzfeed]
As a self-proclaimed social media and blogging addict, it’s really quite baffling how hard it was for me to begin writing this post. How does social media influence health and fitness? I asked myself that same question over and over again, each time feeling like I just couldn’t come up with a satisfying answer because personally, it has a very profound influence on my day-to-day routine and therefore, my health and fitness too.
So, I brainstormed a little bit. And this word cloud that looks like it was created by a five-year-old is what I came up with.
As juvenile as it may be, it helped me figure out that while I love social media, and think that it’s a great tool for helping keep up with a healthy lifestyle, it has the ability to negatively effect health and fitness too. But in the end, as long as it doesn’t become something that overwhelms our lives, I think that the pros definitely outweigh the cons. Below I’ve hashed out both the positive and negative ways that I feel social media influences my own health and fitness.
– It keeps me accountable for both my workouts and my meals: I love sharing my recipes and healthy meal ideas on Instagram. Having a log or some type of food diary (weather it be visual or a list) helps keep me accountable for what I’m eating. If I look back at my Instagram feed at the end of the week and see more pictures of ice cream and cookies than I do vegetables and fruit, it tells me I need to step my healthy eating habits back up to the next level.
The same goes for working out. Weather I went for a run, took a yoga class, or lifted some weights at the gym, I like to share my weekly workouts with you all on Facebook and Tumblr and Instagram. If too much time goes by and I haven’t shared a workout, not only do I know that I’ve probably skipped a few sweat sessions, but you guys do too. And while it’s certainly OK to miss a workout here and there or take a rest day, I definitely don’t want to give off the message that slacking off all of the time is OK. 😛 Of course, no one is perfect, but when other’s are paying attention and also holding you accountable, you’re much more likely to do a better job so you can impress your friends and yourself too!
– It connects me with likeminded lovers of fitness: Thanks to social media, I have met and become friends with so many inspiring and just generally wonderful friends… Most of whom also happen to love health and fitness. Friends support us and make us happy, and happiness is an important part of being healthy.
[Angela of Runner in Denial and I at the Health and Fitness Blogger’s Conference in Colorado.]
– It forces me to think critically and analyze everything I read: There is a TON of information about health and fitness on the web. Like, more than is even fathomable. Unfortunately, a lot of it is un-trustworthy, false, misleading, or stereotypical. (Memes that perpetuate awful stereotypes, gender inequality, and silly fitness myths are among some of my least favorite things.) When using social media as a tool for health and fitness, it’s important to keep an open mind and to fact check everything that you read. Some people are just out there to make a buck, and they’ll come up with some pretty crazy stuff to try and sell you their “miracle products” or whatever it is they’re trying to get you to buy. Luckily though, there are reliable sources out there too. Like Greatist, The Exercist, Savannah Rose, ACSM, Built Lean, ACE Fitness, Fooducate, Organic Authority, Strength Running… And the list goes on. But those are just a few of my personal favorites.
[Example: You cannot “spot reduce” fat.]
– It allows me to be a source of information, motivation and inspiration: My number one goal is to inspire others to live their healthiest lives.When I left my social media marketing desk job, it was ultimately because I wanted to do something that would make a difference in other people’s lives. Of course, as a personal trainer, I have the opportunity to do that in real life. But social media and blogging allows me to amplify my message and share my knowledge with more people than I could have ever imagined reaching. When one of you emails me or comments to say that you tried one of my workouts or that your dinner was inspired by one of my recipes, I smile for like five minutes straight. My reaction looks like a combination of all of the following…
– It serves as a source of motivation and inspiration: Not only does social media let me share my health and fitness journey, but of course there are millions of other runners and lifters and healthy-recipe-makers out there sharing their stories too. I can follow along with them and they inspire and motivate me to eat well and exercise everyday. Everyone needs outside sources of motivation and inspiration. There is an enormous community of loving people who will encourage you, support you, cheer you on, and help pick you back up if you fall out there, and that’s something that anybody and everybody who is on a health and fitness journey definitely needs.
– It is addicting: One word. Time-suck. If I didn’t implement limits for myself, I’d be checking my Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr feeds 24/7. Literally. Remember how I was just talking about the fact that I LOVE hearing from you guys? Well yeah, that also makes social media like a drug, because I’m always looking out for the next comment or checking to see weather or not Jillian Michaels messaged to say she wants to collaborate with me yet. (One day… one day! ;)) I also love creating content for you all, and social media makes it so I can do that anywhere at anytime. Which is both a blessing and a curse. Being in front of the computer or on your phone all day is definitely not healthy. And I especially find (and studies have proven) that using electronics before bed has a negative effect on my ability to fall asleep and my sleep cycle. (Good, quality sleep is necessary for total health.) So I make sure to set aside time for disconnecting during the day and try (it’s so hard) to shut down at least an hour before bed each night.
[image via Tumblr]
– Its graphic-heavy nature fosters a “comparative” mindset: I’ll be the first to tell you not to compare yourselves to others. That’s a message that I and all of my favorite fitness bloggers and personalities put out there almost everyday. And while it’s true that you shouldn’t, because it gets you nowhere and is probably one of the most counterproductive ways to use your energy, I’d be lying if I said I never did it myself. We all do it, and if our social media feeds are filled with photos of the fittest of the fit, the fastest of the fast, and the strongest of the strong, it fosters an environment that makes it so easy for us to indulge the habit.
Raise your hand if you’ve scrolled past a picture and thought something along the lines of, “I wish my abs looked like that,” or “If only my arms looked more muscular.” If you didn’t just raise your hand, you’re a liar. It’s ok to have these thoughts, it’s human nature. But when we use social media all of the time and are constantly being bombarded by all different kinds of images we have to remember to consider them more as a source of motivation and inspiration, rather than using them to compare ourselves to what we think we’re not or what we wish we could be.
[image via Pinterest]
So, it looks like (for me at least) the good outweighs the bad.
And in case you’re wondering, here is a list of my favorite social media tools for health and fitness:
1. Instagram: I am that guy who must take a picture of every one of my meals to post on Instagram. Some people hate that guy, but I don’t care. Instagram is a gold mine full of healthy eating inspiration and I love both contributing to and benefiting from it. The same goes for workout motivation. Everyone makes fun of the dudes who update their social media every time they go to the gym, but those people are actually just jealous that they’re not there working out with them. I love trying workouts that others share on Instagram and I love sharing mine with everyone else. And all of the same can be said for Tumblr, Facebook, and Pinterest.
3. MyFitnessPal: I don’t always count my calories, but it was a method that really helped me while I was first trying to lose weight and something that I employ if I feel like I’m slipping off track with my eating habits. MyFitnessPal is a super-simple calorie tracker and food diary that helps you keep track of your weight loss goals.
4. Nike Training Club: Plain and simple, this app is great for exercise beginners and advanced fitness freaks alike. It has almost every exercise you could ever want to know about, pre-planned workouts, a community with awards and points that makes it fun and rewarding, and best of all, video explanations for all of the exercises so you can learn to do them right.
Now I want to hear from you!
How does social media effect your health and fitness? Can you think of any more pros or cons to add to the list? And what are your favorite tools and apps?