Fitness and social media: Don't overdo it

Apps that let friends keep tabs on your health could help you stick to a fitness regimen. But don't overshare.

Story highlights

  • Using social media might help you on your path to physical fitness
  • Telling friends about future fitness plans makes you more likely to follow through with them
  • But don't overdo it with constant updates about your fantastic workouts
  • Apps that track and share your sleep and fitness habits help you feel accountable
It's summer, and months after you made that vow to finally get fit, healthy and bikini-ready, you're actually going at it, sweating it up at the gym or jogging around your 'hood before work.
After all, your annual Fourth of July my-in-laws-will-judge-how-I-look-in-a-bathing-suit-a-thon is approaching. We support your attempts to live healthily -- really, we do.
But here's the thing: We don't care about your personal mission nearly as much as you do.
Anyone who's seen those peppy late-night infomercials, while fumbling around the bottom of a Lay's bag for the last greasy crumbs, knows that myriad technologies exist to help you get in shape. And there's nothing wrong with tapping into tech's social power to gain support and encouragement as you go from couch potato to stud.
But care must be employed when mixing fitness and social media. Read on for three web/workout Fails, plus better approaches for staying connected as you get there.
Fit Flop No. 1: Posting the following on Facebook: "The plan: 3-mile run/walk splits on Monday, 45-minute swim on Tuesday, Zumba class plus 20 minutes on the Erg machine on Wednesday, 8-mile bike ride on Thursday, rest on Saturday, Hatha yoga on Sunday. PUMPED for this week!!!"
True, putting your healthy intentions in writing and then sharing them with others makes you more likely to follow through. At least, that's the idea behind Facebook's new HealthyShare app, which launched this week and encourages you to post your health goals for the benefit of your 300 closest frenemies, childhood acquaintances and people you hung out with that one time you visited Seattle in 2008.
But, news flash: Your workout plans do not a compelling broadcast make. Much better to stick to updates and tweets that give your followers some sort of entertainment or service or that don't make you sound like you have exercise addiction, at least.
A better way: Put your money where your mouth is by logging your workouts at Gympact, where you'll have to pay up if you don't follow through. If you really want to broadcast this stuff regularly, make a blog about your fitness journey, mmkay? Post a pretty Instagram from your a.m. run.
And start with a lot of embarrassing photos of you overweight and looking pale and out of breath. People love Befores as well as Afters.
Fit Flop No. 2: Linking your fitness tracker of choice (Fitbit, Up, Nike+, etc.) to all of your social media channels.
As more and more people get on the fancy-pedometer bandwagon, the programs threaten to become like Spotify -- no one really remembers linking Spotify with their Facebook accounts, and now other people's embarrassing 11th playing of "Countdown" have overrun your newsfeed.
Instead of telling your device to automatically post your steps taken and staircases climbed to Facebook and the like, just swap stats with the online communities that are almost always built into the products' online dashboards.
Fit Flop No. 3: Posting a graph of last night's sleep cycles on the Internet.
No seriously, this is a thing. Sleep monitors such as the app SleepCycle and the soon-to-be-released Renew SleepClock, which sits on your nightstand and uses bat-sonar-like technology to monitor your movement as well as your breathing, much like an overly enamored suitor or a bed intruder, include an option of publishing a visual of your slumber to social media channels. "Look, Ma! Almost 90 minutes of deep sleep!"
Being able to keep an eye on your sleep patterns is awesome. And if you can show your nocturnal habits to your doctor on your iPhone, all the better.
But showing the world all the intimate details? That's about 2.5 steps away from proudly posting pictures of your healthy BM. A pretty good rule of thumb: Whatever happens between the sheets shouldn't wind up on the Web.