The health benefits of social media

By | Health & Wellness
The last meal before a DietBet weigh-in at Times Square, New York: Time Square NYC flcikr

A discovery linking social gaming to weight reduction has been made by researchers from the Miriam Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island. The commercial weight reduction program known as DietBet combines social influence with financial incentive to aid weight reduction and is the next advancement in the evolution of combining health with social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook.

Investigating into the DietBet program and other similar social sites, Tricia Leahey and her team at the the Miriam Hospital Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center found that in the modern era online social weight reduction programs are accessible to large numbers of individuals who want to eliminate weight and if used appropriately can be very effective.

DietBet works as participants join weight reduction games and can place a financial incentive to add motivation. The idea of the program is a social media contest to reduce a set percentage of your starting weight in a set amount of time; 4% in four weeks. Following the time period, users who achieved a 4% loss or more “win” and split all bet money. There are official referees to keep tabs on the site and user authenticity as well as prizes from the site owners such as Amazon vouchers, digital scales and health-related equipment for the most impressive players.

Lead author Leahey monitored almost 40,000 DietBet players over a seven-month period and found that winners lost an average of 4.9% of body fat after four weeks. The leading factors in social media sites and games relate to the ability to interact with other players, betting privileges, numerous weigh-ins and the sense of competition. She continued: “Research evaluating the effectiveness of web-based weight-loss programs is rare and this study could help consumers reduce weight together as part of a web-based community.”

Creator of DietBet, Jamie Rosen said: “This study backs up in a scientific way what we’ve been seeing all along, which is that players in our DietBet game get meaningful motivation and support from a combination of competition, collaboration, and financial incentives. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.”

Other social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter are becoming increasingly popular in supporting a range of goals. Simple searches through popular hashtags like #health, #fitness and exercise will generate a host of individuals who could serve multiple purposes. You could find a role model, an inspiring figure to follow or find common ground with thousands of other people sharing the same ambitions and going through similar processes to yourself.

Facebook allows you to share your personal journeys and receive support at the same time, create albums dedicated to your health achievements and unintentionally inspire others to do the same. Use the realms of Facebook as a community of friends and family who will support you in your aims to which you will return the support.

Pinterest is a photo-focused social media platform that can be used to form events, plan trips, create wish lists and plan projects. There are visually stunning productions right through to amateur snaps of daily life; get involved to share your own collection or simply follow others whose adventures inspire you. Plenty of before and after shots in the health fitness category will help keep you on track and re-iterate that anything is possible.

How could you use social media tools to help improve your health?

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