The next time you’re scrolling through your social media feed and notice a friend’s fitness post, take note of how you feel. New research shows it could impact you more profoundly than you realize, reports the journal Health Communication.
In the study, researchers found that for some people, seeing exercise-related social media posts such as images of friends exercising or wearing workout clothes, checking into gyms, or posting about fitness-related accomplishments had a positive impact. For example, seeing the posts may make them feel motivated to work out. For others, however, viewing fitness posts had a negative effect on their body image. Specifically, it made them feel badly about their weight.
One of the biggest factors that influenced how exercise-related social media posts affected participants was how similar they felt to the person posting. The more similar they perceived themselves to be with the poster, the more likely they were to feel bummed about their weight.
What You Can Do
If you find yourself feeling down about your body after surfing social media sites, it’s possible to turn your attitude around without unfollowing your friends. They key is to try practicing self-compassion. Research shows that self-compassion—taking a kinder, more accepting view of yourself and understanding that everyone is flawed and imperfect—can act as a buffer against comparing your body with others’ or harshly judging your own figure.
Spring Into Action
On the other hand, if you happen to feel inspired after seeing these posts, turn your motivation into action. Here are three ways you can do that:
- Start today. Don’t wait for the perfect plan or the ideal time—lace your sneakers up and get out there.
- Find a super-fit friend. Exercising with a buddy who’s more advanced than you can help you go harder and longer, studies show.
- Focus on how you’ll feel. Even a short workout can boost your mood and decrease stress.
Exercise is about much more than losing weight. Increasing your physical activity can reduce your risk for disease, improve your sleep, and help you feel better in your own skin.