Want to cut some extra calories? Social media may help. Researchers have found that it gets easier for people to exercise when they get motivated through Instagram.
For the findings, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, the research team tested how social media can help and revealed a clear effect of targeted motivation on Instagram.
"Several platforms are having a big impact. It's interesting how some exercise apps promise exercise enjoyment and motivation without having any clear theories for how they want to achieve that," said study first author Silje Berg from Norwegian University of Science and Technology's (NTNU) in the Norway.
"Now our study has shown that theoretical content can have a positive effect, so we should encourage more people in this market to become knowledge-based," Berg added.
According to the researchers, over 500 study participants were recruited through Facebook and other online channels. Participants were at different training levels and had varying degrees of fire in their belly, but all of them exercised.
One group was able to follow an Instagram account called #dinmotivation. The researchers posted motivational posts on this account every three days over four weeks.
"We tried to make participants aware of their own motivation to exercise, and to increase their awareness of why they were training," said study researcher Frode Stenseng.
Participants were then asked again about their exercise motivation and enjoyment.
People in both groups were equally prepared to exercise after the initial four weeks. They continued to train equally. But how much they enjoyed their training was different, the study.
"Participants who followed the account postings developed more positive feelings related to their training. The other participants didn't," Stenseng added.
According to the study, The results were clear. The people who had followed the Instagram postings reported enjoying their exercise much more than the ones who hadn't.
Following the postings involved spending no more than a few minutes per month on Instagram, the researchers said.
There's no lack of influencers with perfect bodies who are happy tell you about the joys of exercise on various social media. But whether they can help you to the same degree is uncertain at best, they added.
The posts on Instagram were based on self-determination and passion theory. That is, they were designed to give people a sense of belonging, mastery and autonomy.
Autonomy should give a person the feeling that what they're doing is in line with their own needs and desires.
"We want to show how the influence of social media can be positive and used to promote public health - rather than the opposite. It can also inform how we should be critical of the source regarding content that appears in our feed. Awareness is key for achieving the positive effect we want," Berg said.
"Watching influencers is probably more like watching TV," Stenseng saod.
The researchers concluded that social media can be a good and inexpensive approach to reaching people with different messages about exercise and health - if it's done right.
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