If you followed lots of new #fitspiration social media accounts in the wake of NYE, hoping to inspire yourself to achieve your fittest year ever, you may want to rethink your tactics. While social media might encourage you to get outdoors and try new activities, it can also be incredibly destructive.
A recent study in the UK analyzed 24 undergraduate students’ social media use, motivation to exercise and their sense of social connection. The researchers found that following exercise-related social media accounts can be motivational. But this is only the case if the accounts post content that makes users feel like they’re part of a supportive community.
Many people encourage a “tough love” approach to exercise. They claim this is the best way to stay on track when pursuing fitness goals. But the UK researchers found that participants motivated to exercise due to poor body image, because they wanted to be thin or to avoid mean comments about their appearance were more likely to experience poor mental health. This is because their actions were driven by a sense of guilt and shame.
Multiple studies have shown that shame-based approaches to exercise are unhealthy and ineffective.
For example, a Smith College study found that people who exercised for weight or appearance-based reasons worked out less often and were more likely to display signs of depression and disordered eating than those who exercised for enjoyment and to boost their wellbeing.
So, trying to motivate yourself with Instagram pics of celebrities selling weight loss tea or Facebook accounts that post body shaming memes is unlikely to work.
If you want to stay on track with your fitness goals, consider overhauling your social media use with these simple tips:
- Follow accounts that focus on the health and wellbeing benefits of exercise—not pursuing thinness. For example, runner Mirna Valerio’s body positive Instagram posts will make you want to set out on a fitness adventure.
- Diet and exercise influencers are all the rage on social media, but their nutrition advice isn’t always reliable. Check out nutritionist and author Laura Thomas’ fun Instagram page for easy to understand, #nutribollocks-busting advice.
- Above all, trust your gut. Do particular accounts that claim to be empowering and energizing just end up making you feel bad about yourself? Immediately unfollow them. You won’t regret it.