After examining the growing online culture of “fitness inspiration”, they will discuss their findings at a conference on women and physical activity in Adelaide tomorrow.
They examined posts on social media sites, such as Instagram and Facebook, featuring images, hashtags and inspirational quotes.
Flinders University health sciences lecturer Dr Ivanka Prichard conducted three studies, each of about 100 women aged 17 to 25.
In two of the studies participants were put on a treadmill for 10 minutes after viewing such online content.
“These images are supposed to inspire people but they don’t seem to be making people exercise any more,” Dr Prichard said.
“It sounds like it should be a good thing if it’s inspiring fitness and health in people but my concern is because the images are also (of) very thin (people) … they’re likely to lead to the same body dissatisfaction as the thin ideal.
“Fitspiration images seem to lead to greater body dissatisfaction and negative mood in comparison to control images, say, of just gym equipment.”
Flinders University PhD candidate Stephanie Jong was inspired to look into the issue after a friend posted a before and after “bum selfie” online after completing a leg squat challenge.
Ms Jong spent months analysing online content and interviewed 22 Australian women aged 18 to 24, including 14 from South Australia.
“We’ve seen a big push towards the fitness ideal (online),” she said.
“What is normal is being pushed through posts and comments (on social media).”
Ms Jong said producers and consumers of such online material rarely considered socio-economic issues, such as the cost of expensive “superfoods”, gym clothing or workout equipment.
“We also need to think about the credibility of the health information that’s online,” she said.
Ms Jong hoped to create an app which could help people “to be a bit more critical about the messages that they’re getting online”.
Basketballer Mollie McKendrick, 22, said perceptions of “the ideal body” have always been a feature in society.
“Now instead of our trend towards skinny … they’re trying to put a fitness twist on it,” said Ms McKendrick.
“It’s always good to encourage fitness and being active but we’ve got to be careful because … you can get people being obsessed with it.”
Novak, L. (2015) Fitspiration Messages on Social Media Can Do More Harm Than Good. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/fitspiration-messages-on-social-media-can-do-more-harm-than-good/story-fni6uo1m-1227635813171?sv=6deabf05553e3ef6b97b68d94fbc8ebd#load-story-comments. [Accessed: 07 December, 2015].