Motivating exercise through social media: Is a picture always worth a thousand words?


Objectives In the present study, we examined how the influence of exercise-related social media content on exercise motivation might differ across content type (with images vs. without images) and account type (individual vs. corporate). Design Using a 2 × 2 within-subjects experimental design, 229 participants viewed a series of 40 actual social media posts across the four conditions (individual posts with images, corporate posts with images, individual posts without images, and corporate posts without images) in a randomized order. Method Participants rated the extent to which they felt each social media post motivated them to exercise, would motivate others to exercise, and was posted for extrinsic reasons. Participants also completed other measures of individual differences including their own exercise motivation. Results Posts with images from individuals were more motivating than posts with images from corporations; however, corporate posts without images were more motivating than posts without images from individuals. Participants expected others to be similarly motivated by the stimuli, and perceived corporate posts as having been posted for more extrinsic reasons than individuals’ posts. Conclusions These findings enhance our understanding of how social media may be used to promote positive health behaviors.

Psychology of Sport and Exercise