Shared perceptions of #fitspo among women and men


Social media has become ubiquitous in recent years, with a rise in trends such as #fitspo media. #Fitspo or fitness inspiration media, are intended to inspire fitness through exercise, and are characterized by idealized body images with exercise-promoting slogans. Despite their popularity, prior work suggests that #fitspo media may contribute to increased body dissatisfaction and lowered mood, detracting from engagement in exercise. Emerging adults may be at particular risk of these outcomes given that this cohort aged ~18-29 years, have lifelong familiarity with and frequently use social media. To explore perceptions about #fitspo among an emerging adult population, a content analysis was completed. Emerging adult women and men (N=180) who were shown #fitspo media were asked to provide commentary about their thoughts after viewing the media, which were then categorically coded by two researchers. A purposive sample of the comments coded as 'anti-' or 'pro-' #fitspo were selected to qualitatively explore these categories, and to better understand how these media may be perceived by some emerging adults. Pro-#fitspo comments centered around motivation to, and health benefits of exercise, while anti-#fitspo comments included description about self-shame and toxic diet/exercise culture. Themes included social culture, goals, and shame, expressed in both pro- and anti- #fitspo comments, demonstrating that viewing #fitspo media may contribute to conflicting and nuanced thoughts. Perceptions of viewing #fitspo may for some, reinforce already-held ideas about body image or exercise outcomes, and shape the way exercise is framed in online spaces.

Acknowledgments: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada