In this day and age, technology plays a major role in most everything, and physical fitness is no exception. A new study suggests that when it comes to running, social media plays an important role in how far – quite literally – a person can go.
Wearable technology and data sharing makes it possible for people who use digital apps and electronic devices to measure, record and compare their personal records on how far they run, how often, and how fast, Nature.com reports.
Scientists believe that this exchange of information has a big impact on runners: people run more when they see on social media that their friends are doing the same. When they see people they know running faster and further, they are also more likely to push themselves to meet, or exceed, those goals.
Researchers at the MIT Sloan School of Management in Cambridge, Massachusetts, examined data on over one million people, who had collectively run over 350 million kilometers in five years. They recorded daily exercise patterns, geographical locations, and social network ties.
The results of the study showed that exercise – running, to be specific – is socially contagious.
The researchers also found that there is a difference in social influence. While men were affected by the running patterns of male and female companions, women were influenced solely by their female friends.
In addition, it appeared that most motivations stemmed from good-old fashioned competitiveness: runners wanted to stay ahead of the pack, and strove to do better to make sure they stayed on top.
This is the first concrete evidence showing that health habits can spread, and be affected by, social media and peer pressure. It likewise serves as an example of how data on social media can be used, as runners have undeniable accounts of things such as times and distances, which can be useful in further research.
The study was published in Nature Communications.