Can Twitter make you fitter?

  • Article by: CLAIRE WISEMAN , Dallas Morning News
  • Updated: October 5, 2013 - 2:00 PM

Exercise lovers say social networks such as Twitter and Instagram help hold people accountable when trying to stay fit.

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Pat Wagner worked out with personal trainer Steven Williams at Gold’s Gym in Dallas. She is motivated by his tweets about living a healthful lifestyle.

Photo: Sarah Hoffman • Dallas Morning News,

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On a recent Saturday, Pat Wagner knew she should have been getting ready for boxing class.

The 60-year-old spent the past five years cutting her weight in half, dropping 150 pounds and adopting an entirely new lifestyle. She’s no stranger to hard work or hard workouts, but on this day there were just too many distractions.

Errands to run. Laundry to do. A game on TV. She wondered — couldn’t she take it easy?

Wagner began scrolling through her Twitter feed. She saw a post from her personal trainer, Steven Williams. He was in his own boxing class, and the post made Wagner decide to get up and get there, too.

“We all run up these excuses in our mind,” Wagner said, “and we might know realistically that there shouldn’t be an excuse, but it’s amazing what the body can do and what the mind can make up.”

Wagner is a living example of how social media can help you lose weight.

A quick scroll through Pinterest or a Google search for “motivation” shows that networking sites are brimming with weight-loss inspiration. But there’s science behind the idea, too, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

Participants who self-monitored their weight loss via Twitter had lower body mass indexes after six months than those who didn’t.

It’s also become a useful tool for trainers who want to motivate clients toward their goals, and clients who are looking for an extra push.

“The Twitter nudges do that,” Wagner said. “They just reach out and say, ‘Hey, get off your butt and go do this. I’m doing it; you need to do it.’ ”

Getting personal

Williams, Wagner’s trainer, said he uses Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to keep his clients motivated during the crucial hours when they’re working toward their goals outside the gym.

“It’s almost like I’m with them throughout the day, as well,” he said. “They always have a way to get hold of me, so it’s almost like I’m with them 24/7.”

Williams frequently sends out motivational quotes and reminders or posts pictures of a workout or healthy meal. It’s a not-so-subtle message for clients who, like Wagner, might be lacking motivation.

“It’s like, ‘They’re in here working; why aren’t you?’ basically,” Williams said.

His social media sites are also a means for his clients and other visitors to Gold’s Gym in Uptown Dallas, where he works, to connect with one another. He’s seen them share best practices and lean on one another through particularly tough workouts.

“It’s just this endless cycle of mass information exchange,” Williams said.

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