If you're an online fitness fanatic who loves looking at new workouts, catching up with fitness and weight loss blogs, or drooling overhealthy recipes like we do, it could help. Even if you don't always read those bookmarked links and rarely do the workouts you peruse online, this Internet habit can inspire physical fitness in the real world, a new study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found.
Online fitness information has a positive if small effect on physical activity and fitness, researchers concluded after an analysis of 34 previous studies, particularly for short-term behavior changes. Different types of online intervention — whether it was an email newsletter, an online weight-loss community, an informational web page, or a combination of the three — all increased physical activity in participants. Sedentary or insufficiently active study volunteers became proportionally more active after receiving online fitness information than already active participants.
Here are more keys to transforming from an online fitness junkie to a real-life gym rat, based on the study:
- Log in more than three times per week. The average participant in the studies analyzed accessed their online fitness intervention of choice at least three times each week. It seems that the more time you spend learning about fitness, the more likely you are to try out a few new moves.
- Keep it up for 12 weeks. Unfortunately, one week of chatting with your new online diet buddies won't be enough to produce measurable results. Stick with your program for at least 12 weeks to see a natural change in your behavior, researchers say.
- Find content you love. If your Google Reader is always overflowing, get fitness information delivered in your inbox instead. That way, you will be more likely to regularly engage with the fitness content. Another key? Discovering websites and communities you love to visit.
- Stay engaged. You will be more likely to take action if the online fitness content you're exposed to fits your needs and lifestyle. Are you a new mom who wants to lose baby weight? A middle-aged mom trying to work off some belly fat? Seek out a similar online community to help you start — and stick with — a fitness routine, or find another outlet that keeps you interested and coming back for more. The more engaged volunteers were with the content, the more active they eventually became, researchers found.
(Full disclosure: Everyday Health has active online weight-loss communities, email newsletters, and robust social-media sites that are meant to educate and inspire people who want to develop healthy habits. We did not participate in the study in any way.)