Does Social Media Motivate or Discourage You to Work Out?

It’s a question we often wonder—does scrolling through social media have a positive or negative effect on our well-being? When it comes to fitness-related posts, there isn’t a clear answer.

In a new 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, made them feel motivated to work out. For others, however, viewing fitness posts had a negative effect on their body image. Such posts actually made them feel badly about their weight.

But that doesn’t mean you have to shun all social media for fear of negative effects. Here’s how to handle the feelings you may experience when scrolling through fitness posts on your feed.

If you feel motivated

If seeing your friends work out inspires you to do the same, act on those feelings. Don’t wait for the perfect time or until you find the best plan—get started today.

If you’re not sure where to start, find an exercise buddy. Reach out to your friends posting about their exercise routines or fitness achievements. After all, research shows that working out with a friend who’s more advanced than you can help you push harder and longer.

If you feel discouraged

If you find yourself feeling down about your body after surfing social media sites, you don’t have to unfollow your friends. Instead, try practicing self-compassion—research shows that it can act as a buffer against comparing your body with others’ or harshly judging your own figure.

The next time social media posts get you down, follow these self-compassion tips:

  • Remember that no one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes and everyone experiences failure.

  • Be kind to yourself. Instead of judging, understand and accept where you are in your fitness journey.

  • Recognize that all bodies are different—and almost all fall short of our ideals.

Above all, remember that 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.