Getting social with your fitness is a great way to stay motivated, accountable, and most importantly, on track with staying active.

The Internet has emerged as a popular way to connect with like-minded individuals on similar fitness journeys. The ability to share stories, successes, and even failures via social media and other specialized platforms has made it so much easier to connect with other people working to change their lifestyle habits.

If you’re the only person you know working to create healthy changes, staying on track by yourself can seem overwhelming. It may feel like nobody understands, and overcoming the resistance to skip the daily workout or yet another unhealthy meal is that much more difficult without a support system.

It’s difficult enough to change your own habits; don’t even try convincing others to change. Simply connect to an already thriving online community and log on whenever you need an extra dose of inspiration or motivation!

Online fitness research 

Many people surround themselves with motivational messages and inspiring quotes to stay on track with exercise programs. However, social networks surpass motivational videos and graphics when it comes to keeping exercisers motivated, according to research published in Preventive Medicine Reports.

Social networks are one of the best ways for exercisers to stay motivated, research says.

For the study, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania compared three groups of graduate students who all participated in free exercise programs. One group received generic motivational materials extolling the benefits of exercise while another group received no messages.

Members of a third group were placed in anonymous online social networks, where each person reported progress and received notifications when others in the group signed up for specific fitness classes.

Researchers found that motivational messages caused an initial surge in motivation that quickly wore off. The social networks, on the other hand, snowballed, actually increasing in influence and motivational ability as time went on and more people signed up for the network.

People reporting successes and talking about healthy choices instead of discussing their night spent on the couch with pizza spurred others to make similarly healthy choices. Study author Jingwen Zhang tells ScienceDaily:

“We were able to use the positive signals to form a reinforcing loop that pushed everyone to exercise more.”

The Internet is awash in people looking to improve their health and using the web to track progress and connect with like-minded people. Here are a few ways to get involved.

Social media

Social media is perhaps the easiest way to connect with others on the same path. Facebook offers a variety of groups, including both public and private ones that serve to connect people with similar interests. Searching Facebook groups for “fitness accountability” yields hundreds of results, as does a more generic search for “fitness.”

The only caveat to Facebook groups is that some may be organized by business owners looking to sell you workout programs or health shakes. Be sure to ask about the intention of the group when submitting a join request, since most Facebook groups are private.

Instagram is a popular way of connecting with others, although it’s much less formal than an organized group. Casual communities have developed that revolve around specific fitness programs such as Tone It Up and Beachbody, as well as interests, like yoga and running.

Communities around common fitness interests have formed on social media, motivating participants to workout.

Communities typically connect through hashtags such as #fitness, #yoga, or #workout. The best way to get involved is to search the hashtags, find people who inspire you, and then follow them.

When you follow people, their pictures will appear in your news feed, providing you with abundant inspiration every time you scroll through the app. The communities are unique because many people develop friendships with others, even across large distances.

Some people on Instagram host free challenges with prizes to motivate, connect, and inspire others. This is common in the app’s yoga community, but it happens in other communities as well. Participating in the challenges is another great way to connect with people. Comment on others’ images, cheer them on, and many will likely visit your account and cheer you on as you post your own pictures and progress reports.

Fitlink

Fitlink is an online fitness community that costs $5 to join, but this small fee gives you a lifetime membership. Members have access to workout journals, routes for running and bicycling, and the chance to connect with local workout buddies.

The website also features a search function to find organized activities ranging from walking to scuba diving in your area. You’ll find links to free workouts, and perhaps most importantly, a forum to connect with others also working to incorporate more fitness into their lives.

MyFitnessPal

MyFitnessPal is an online community built on the foundation of multiple mobile apps in which you can track fitness, nutrition, and wellness goals. Visit the message boards to connect with others, find accountability and advice, and find workout buddies in your area. MyFitnessPal also features food and exercise databases to simplify the task of making healthy choices.

The community has groups organized around various interests, from Recipe Swap! to Not-that-Heavy Girls looking to lose those last few pounds. Join a group, make connections, and enjoy the added motivation.

SparkPeople

After registering for a free account on SparkPeople, you will gain access to a network of health and wellness sites, along with features like calorie counters, fitness programs, a community forum, and apps to stay motivated on the go.

You’ll find fitness videos and diet tips from registered nutritionists and other experts for advice you can trust. SparkPeople says the number of members in its community forums reaches into the millions. The popularity ensures you receive the support and motivation you need to reach health and fitness goals.

SparkPeople produces content that caters to people with specific concerns, such as diabetes-friendly recipes, along with access to success stories to help you envision your very own success.

What is your experience with using online communities for fitness motivation?

Image by Health Gauge via Flickr

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