When you think of the connection between obesity and technology, the associations are often rather negative – perhaps calling to mind fat kids sitting in front of the TV or computer instead of playing outside. While too much screen time is indeed a problem with our youngest generation, it may also play a role in fighting one of their biggest challenges: obesity.
A recent study by the American Heart Association highlighted some of the ways that social media can help in the fight against childhood obesity. Social media brings people together, and as the article states, “athletes tend to hand out with athletes, and overweight kids hand out together so they reinforce each other’s eating habits or preferences for recreational activities.” These connections can, of course, have a negative impact – internet addiction or even exposure to online bullying – but they can also help reinforce good habits. If one person in a group makes healthy changes to their lifestyle, they can help inspire the others to do so.
A number of tools exist to combine technology with weight loss. Exercise videos have been popular for decades, but now video games like Wii Fit turns gaming into a weight loss activity. In addition, there are a huge number of social sites for weight loss. Sites like MyFitnessPal and MapMyRun allow you to track your caloric intake and exercise, and they connect with social media so your friends can cheer you on or join you.
This social aspect has been shown to be especially effective in helping people maintain their goals. Those who share their New Years’ Resolutions with their friends and social media contacts are far more likely to keep up with their resolutions for longer, because of something called social proof: they want their friends to see them committing to something, so it keeps them on track.
As the battle against obesity becomes more and more important in our society – more people in the US are overweight than ever before, and we’re one of the fattest countries on the planet – finding these new avenues to fight it becomes increasingly important. In fact, obesity can shave up to 27 years off your life!
We’re the 33rd healthiest nation in the world, and we’re only falling further. Social media might be part of the answer.