Zee Media Bureau
New York: Do you agree that your social media friends can make you stay fit?
Well, a recent study suggests that health buddies on the social networking sites can inspire you to hit the gym or motivate you to do yoga which will help you stay fit.
Internet and social media are more helpful and effective for improving people's exercise habits than those promotional advertisements, according to researchers from University of Pennsylvania.
The study which was led by Professor Damon Centolawas, showed that a fitness motivator can be more effective and vastly cheaper than health promotions.
During the trial, the team created a website where 217 graduate students enrolled in free exercise classes at the University of Pennsylvania gym.
Part of the group also received promotional messages from the University, including highly engaging motivational videos and infographics emphasizing fitness tips and the importance of exercise.
Meanwhile, another part of the group saw no advertising messages.
Instead, members of this group were placed into social networks with six of their peers.
While these peer groups remained anonymous to one another, participants were regularly updated on each other's fitness achievements.
They could monitor each other's progress on the website and when one signed up for a weightlifting or yoga class, the others were notified by email.
As a control group for the two interventions, a final group of participants received no further follow-up through the study.
By the end of the 13-week study, the findings were clear.
Promotional messages caused an initial bump in class attendance but the motivational effects quickly wore off.
The promotional messages had almost no long-term effect on class participation.
“Health buddies, on the other hand, were much more effective at motivating people to exercise,” Centola noted.
“We were able to use the positive signals to form a reinforcing loop that pushed everyone to exercise more," added Jingwen Zhang, an author on the study.
The results reveal that same positive behaviour signals are also powerful in our online networks and can be harnessed for the social good.
This approach could be applied not only to encourage exercise, but also to promote vaccinations, medication compliance and preventative care.
The study was published in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports.
(With IANS inputs)