Let's Workout! Exploring Social Exercise in an Online Fitness Community


Increasing attention has been paid to promoting certain healthy habits through social interaction in online communities. At the intersection of social media and activity tracking applications, these platforms capture information on physical activities as well as peer-to-peer interactions. Importantly, they also offer researchers a novel opportunity to understand health behaviors by utilizing the large-scale behavioral trace data they archive. In this study we explore the characteristics and dynamics of social exercise (i.e. fitness activities with at least one peer physically co-present) using data collected from an online fitness community popular with cyclists and runners. In particular, we ask if factors such as temporal seasonality, activity performance and social feedback vary by the number of people participating in an activity; we do so by comparing associations for both men and women. Our results indicate that when peers are physically co-present for fitness activities (i.e. group workouts), exercise tends to be more intense and receive more feedback from other users, across both genders. Findings also suggest gender differences in the observed tendency to complete activities with others. These results have important implications for health and wellness interventions.

Proceedings of the iConference