Health and fitness go virtual

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Monday, 1 March 2010 - Last Updated on March 1, 2010

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While sitting in front of a computer may seem like an unhealthy habit, it turns out that many have started taking on the information superhighway to find fitness. From diet tips, support forums and wellness information, the internet has become a valuable resource for those seeking a more fit and healthy lifestyle.

Not only does the World Wide Web give easy access to information. It is a highly educational reservoir that promotes self-development and social connections that can make the journey to fitness easier and more manageable.

 

In a study done by Nardi, Schiano, Gumbrect and Swartz on people’s motivation to blog, five major reasons for blogging were identified. Among these reasons were to document one’s life, to work through personal issues, and to build and maintain community support online. The last reason appears to be a prevalent theme for many bloggers and readers who take their fitness journeys online.

We’re all in this together: Blogs as online support systems

One of the biggest benefits about social networking sites and blogs in achieving fitness goals is that there is an abundance of support available for everyone, be it the individual blogger or his or her reader. Essentially, taking one’s fitness regimen online, be it staying healthy or losing weight, allows one to find the support of kindred souls, all with the same or similar goals.

Take the case of the Wii Mommies, whose virtual fitness community grew out of Julie Maloney’s story about losing 60 pounds with the use of the Nintendo Wii. Since then, her story inspired many others to lose weight with the use of the Wii and they have since blogged about their stories and shared ideas, tips and encouragement in their online forum.

An avid subscriber of Norris Chumsley’s blog, Spiritual Weight Loss, pointed out in an interview that by reading his articles, she is encouraged to find the support she needs to continue on her journey to fitness. ‘It’s not just about the weight loss,’ she says, ‘but he also writes about how I can maintain it by being more mindful about my emotions and behaviors that can contribute to bad eating habits’.

Blogs can also be cathartic. Some even turn to blogging upon being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness such as cancer. Through these blogs and forums, a virtual group therapy session is assembled. For parents with children with autism, blogging can be a way for finding understanding and acceptance.

Ask and you shall be answered

Often, people who are trying to get fit or become healthy have a lot of questions to ask. From calorie counts to the nutritional benefits of supplements and the like, these questions can be endless. At times, some questions may be perceived as silly or inconsequential, thus discouraging one to ask for fear of being laughed at. Online, one can ask questions that may seem silly in a face-to-face conversation. Through the mask of an online identity, one can feel more comfortable asking these without fear of ridicule or scorn. Besides this, asking these questions online yield quicker answers at almost zero cost, compared to going to a health center, gym, or nutritional expert.

Finding resources is also made easy online. Through several keystrokes, one can find the most affordable gym for their needs, lists of races and tracks they can try, and suppliers for organic foods, supplements and whatever dietary needs they may have.

Facing up to the challenge

Making the choice to live a healthier lifestyle is often not the easiest thing to do, especially in today’s modern world. Nonetheless, online forums can be a collaborative tool for those who are trying to make the conscious decision to lose weight, quit vices, engage in a more active lifestyle and get fit.

Through an online community, one is challenged to try new things and take proactive steps to reach their goals. These sites even track members’ progress thus allowing each user to find encouragement and affirmation which can motivate them to keep themselves on track.

A Double-edged sword

However, it should be pointed out that some social networking sites and blogs can inadvertently ‘normalize’ negative behaviors, such as cutting and similar self-injurious behaviors. This is especially true for individuals with eating disorders.

Blogs and online discussions can actually encourage them to work harder towards their goal of losing weight. In the same manner, some may think the advice they get online is substitute enough for a professional’s advice. There is also little room for supervision through online fitness programs, which can be dangerous if pushed too far.

 

Photo by Ria Tirazona. Some rights reserved.

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