WASHINGTON: Sharing Facebook updates about workout goals may lead people to make fewer exercise commitments, a new study has found.
Researchers found that the prospect of workout goals being shared on social media led fewer people to set weekly goals, Press Trust of India (PTI) reported.
Sharing also led to emotional encouragement, logistical assistance and accountability that may have helped study participants classified as obese up their step counts by an average of about a half mile per day.
â€œOne of the most common recommendations for people who want to lose weight is to share their plan with family and friends,â€ said Paul Resnick, professor at the University of Michiganâ€™s School of Information.
â€œThe theory is that being accountable to and encouraged by their social support system will increase their chances of reaching goals,â€ he said.
But researchers at University of Michigan and University of Washington said that sharing was a two-edged sword.
â€œPublic accountability is great, but not if it keeps you from making commitments in the first place,â€ Resnick said.
In the 12-week, randomised, controlled clinical trial, the researchers gave 165 people classified as obese FitBit pedometers and access to a custom website they had created.
Participants could view their steps on the website and choose whether to set a step goal for the following week.
The study put participants in three categories and people knew which one they were in. For one group, goals and results (whether they met the goal) were kept private.
In another, any goals the participants made were shared in an automatic Facebook update.
In the final group, the system updated walkersâ€™ Facebook feeds with both the goal and outcome (in addition to Facebook sharing, for the last two groups the programme sent emails to select groups of supporters that each participant chose).
Walkers made fewer commitments when they knew their goals would be made public.
In the private group, participants committed 88 percent of the weeks compared with 78 percent of weeks when commitments were shared and 77 percent when both commitment and outcome were made public.
The researchers said while it appears that public accountability decreased goal setting, it also had some counteracting positive effects.
One was that walkers whose commitments were posted publicly were buoyed by supportive friends and colleagues. â€“BERNAMA