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Do Fitness Influencers Motivate Exercise Enthusiasts?

Some YouTube viewers go along for the ride.

Social media influencers and health

Not all followers of fitness influencers are interested in exercising more, according to study findings on YouTube influencers. Paris School of Business researchers in France examined the relationship between fitness video consumption and followers’ exercise attitudes and intentions. While social media influencers are known to affect purchasing decisions, it’s unclear whether they can positively influence health behaviors.

Researchers analyzed responses from a global sample of 306 subjects ages 15–25 and found that viewers who already had an exercise habit used the media to reinforce their motivation. By contrast, nonexercising viewers watched fitness influencers for entertainment, and, in some cases, this even reduced exercise intentions. In other words, some viewers felt vicarious goal achievement from watching others exercise and, as a result, felt less motivated to exercise themselves. Investigators also noted gender-based differences in viewing attitudes. More research is needed.

The study is available in the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services (2021; 58 [102276]).

See also: The Instructor-or-Influencer Challenge: Social Media and Fitness Instructors


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Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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