Social media often gets a bad rap as a time-waster or vapid echo chamber. But savvy users have discovered that social media can be a powerful tool to help you on your path to wellness.
Whether you’re determined to lose weight, exercise more or manage stress more capably, finding a like-minded group on social media has been shown to help encourage behavior change.
Ready to give it a try? These three popular platforms offer plenty of options.
- Facebook — With more than 2 billion monthly active users Facebook is the world’s most popular online social network. But can you use it to help you change your health habits? Recent research findings indicate the answer is a definite yes. In one study, people looking to lose weight who actively participated in a weight-loss support group Facebook page — posting and liking other posts — lost more weight than their peers who did not engage. Other studies have found similar results for smoking cessation.
- Instagram — This photo-based social network can make daily chores such as tracking food intake easier and more fun. In one study, participants reported that bragging about their healthy meal to friends, and getting virtual pats on the back in return, helped reinforce new dietary habits and ramp up motivation to do better. They also used the app to find new recipes and tips for achieving healthier lifestyles.
- Twitter — Behold the power of the 280-character tweet. Studies show that turning to Twitter in search of support for healthy lifestyle changes, such as exercising more or losing weight, really works. Sharing status updates — “Just finished a 2-mile walk!” or “Tried this new salmon recipe for dinner. Yum!” — helps keep you accountable and lets you feel good about your successes. One study concluded that people who engaged with Twitter lost more weight. In another, researchers found that when people who wore activity monitors also started tweeting about their activity, their daily physical activity increased.
Researchers have also looked at how to maximize benefits from social media support groups. Early studies provide one clear takeaway: Use it more, not less. In at least two studies, dieters who actively engaged in online discussions regularly lost more weight than their peers who spent less time connecting.
Making lifestyle changes can be tough. Take a minute to locate a support group online. Connect with people who will encourage you when you want to quit, applaud you when you keep trying and offer helpful advice when you stumble. Research shows this really makes a difference for some. Why not you, too?
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