Have you developed an online network for your clients, such as a closed Facebook group? Perhaps now is the time to start one. A study published in Preventive Medicine Reports (2015; 2, 651–57) suggests that social media networking sites may motivate participants to exercise more often.

In this study, the researchers wanted to learn which protocol—promotional messaging or peer networks—would prove more effective at boosting physical activity levels. The researchers recruited 217 graduate students from a Philadelphia university to participate in the 13-week experiment. Subjects were separated into three groups: a control group, which received access to a basic online program for enrolling in weekly exercise classes led by instructors at the university;
a media group, which received access to the same enrollment program but also got weekly encouragement messages; and
a social network of anonymous peers, who received the same benefits as the media group plus access to other participants’ class enrollment progress. Study measures included class enrollment and self-reported physical activity levels.

“Participants enrolled in 5.5 classes on average,” reported the authors. “Compared with enrollment in the control condition (mean = 4.5), promotional messages moderately increased enrollment (mean = 5.7), while anonymous social networks significantly increased enrollment (mean = 6.3).”

Toward the end of the study, those in the social group were logging 1.6 more days per week of moderate exercise than they were at the start. (A day of moderate exercise meant participating for at least 30 minutes in physical activity that did not cause sweating or hard breathing.) Control group members had upped their levels of moderate activity by just 0.8 day compared with baseline levels.

Have you used social media to increase clients’ exercise adherence? Send your story to [email protected]

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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