Is Social Media Helping us get Toned or Tubby?

What do you use social media for? Chatting with friends, posting photos of your lunch or reading the news? With the huge advances social media has made in the last decade, most platforms are much more than places to simply write statuses or re-tweet Tweets, and the influence of our favourite apps on our lives is bigger than most realise - especially when it comes to health and fitness.

With #food, #fitness and #foodporn easily making it to Instagram's top 100 hashtags of 2017, many turn to social media to lust over foods and get inspiration for fitness, but is social media making us fitter or fatter?

Social media for a healthy lifestyle

The age of gym selfies is well and truly upon us. The health & fitness community - on Instagram specifically - is huge, with models making money promoting protein health supplements, fitness-clothing and their food & fitness programs. Many turn to Instagram to get motivated and inspired, learn techniques and share their journeys on the road to a healthy lifestyle. 

Social media, YouTube and fitness apps are also so easily available, and many choose to use these to aid their weight-loss or fitness journeys, almost ridding people of the need for a gym membership. You can easily access tailored workouts on YouTube or through apps which can be performed at home (if you have the space), and the same goes for healthy recipe ideas (if you have the motivation and will-power).

However, while looking at 'perfect' figures on Instagram can be motivational, the issue of mental health and self-esteem is often raised, with Instagram dubbed one of the most damaging apps in the area.

Studies have looked at how social media can aid weight-loss; a study from Gabrielle Turner-McGrievy in 2013 revealed that those who shared their weight-loss progress on Twitter lost more weight than those who didn't. Similarly, the Dominican University of California found that 70% of participants who shared weight-loss progress with a friend each week successfully reached their goal, whereas the 35% who didn't share their progress did not reach their goal. 

It's clear that when sharing fitness/weight-loss journeys, the praise and feedback that comes with it can be motivational and make success more likely. Plus, with the ease and accessibility of materials to live a healthy life on social media, it's overall a great place to turn when looking for a lifestyle change.

The opposite effect

While fitness bloggers and Insta-famous gym-goers are all the rage across social platforms, so is food. Healthy food accounts are extremely popular, going hand-in-hand with fitness ones, but unhealthy foods are also all over social media, tempting users in.

What springs to mind are those short, artsy videos of deliciously unhealthy recipes being made - rainbow unicorn cakes or crazy pizza-burger-hybrids, you know the ones - which get every user heart-eyeing in the comments. The videos often portray how easy these sugary, fatty, carb-heavy treats can be to make, which will of course prompt viewers to try them out for themselves. 

Everyone's entitled to an unhealthy treat now and again, but with our feeds saturated with these calorific creations, it can lead to temptation and unhealthy diets.

The rise of social media also could promote laziness; spending hours scrolling through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or binge-watching Netflix or YouTube. Being 'addicted' to social media can be damaging and take up time which could be spent being active or social.

As MensFitness reports, a study of 350 college students revealed those who spend more time on social networks spend less time doing physical activity - which is an expected result; it's all about how people choose to spend their time.

Ultimately, factors such as interests, personal priorities and motivation levels come into play when looking at whether an individual lead a healthy or not-so-healthy lifestyle, but there's no doubt social media is a huge influence in contemporary society. What are your thoughts?

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