Images of fit, toned bodies on social media claim to provide fitness inspiration, but many millions of photos tagged #fitspo could be having the opposite effect.
According to a new study by Flinders University, women who are exposed to campaigns encouraging functional fitness can have a positive impact on wellbeing and intent to exercise, rather than viewing aspirational body images.
The research team, tested the effectiveness of exposure to two functionality-focused media campaigns, This Girl Can and #jointhemovement, in improving satisfaction of their appearance and physical functionality, exercise intent, and protecting them against exposure to idealised imagery.
The study, which was also conducted with the University of the Sunshine Coast and Burnet Institute, found that viewing either campaign produced higher appearance satisfaction and exercise intentions than the control video with idealised fitness imagery.
The researchers found that viewing idealised imagery of female bodies – the kind of perfectly toned bodies that are often tagged #fitspo on social media – did not maintain the same effect. Additionally, the two campaigns which focused on functionality did not stop women comparing themselves to the more idealised, or #fitspo style images.
“These results can inform agencies about campaign effectiveness and suggest that women benefit from campaigns that feature non-idealised depictions of women exercising,” Dr Prichard says.