The hashtag #Fitspo is often seen on Instagram posts touting exercise, healthy living and clean food. It’s popular among celebrities, athletes, lifestyle gurus and people who are marketing their particular brand of ‘good for you’ products and services. The images that accompany #Fitspo are, as one might expect, of fit and healthy people doing fit and healthy things.
The question is; is this really inspirational or does it sabotage the average person as they work towards their own health goals? It seems as if the results are decidedly mixed.
Health related social content can impact viewers’ dispositions about weight
One study has shown that people who were exposed to fitness related social media content were increasingly concerned with their own weight. This concern was aggravated when subjects were exposed to posts of people they perceived to be fitter than they were. According to Dr Anand Thakkar, Chief MD at Chicago Weight Loss Clinic, “more staggering was the fact that this effect was seen even when the nature of the fitness related posts were positive and encouraged healthy lifestyles. If it is well managed, this could be the motivation for viewers of such post to adopt healthier lifestyle choices when it comes to weight and fitness.”
Interestingly enough, this happened less frequently when the viewer perceived the poster as being at a higher fitness level than themselves. Instead, it was more likely for negative thoughts to occur among people who saw themselves at a similar fitness level to the individual making the fitness related post.