Facebook Trumping Exercise Time

Physical activity decrease may be because of time spent on social networking

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Did you Instagram your run today? Or tweet about your walk? Most of the time spent on Facebook and other networking sites could be taking away from your cardio or 30-minute yoga class.

A new study presented at a conference found that time spent on social networking may come at the expense of other activities with exercise being the big one affected.

"Post an update after your run."

In the study, led by Emer O'Leary and Wendy Cousins at the University of Ulster, researchers surveyed 353 college students online at the Northern Irish university.

More than half were younger than 25, and 67 percent of them were female.

The 15-question survey asked students about their demographics, social networking activities, and included a short form of the International Physical Activity Questionnaire.

Researchers found that about 88 percent of the students surveyed reported using online social networks, and most of them spent an average of 63 minutes logged in.

And 24 percent spent more than an hour each day on social networks.

“Time is a finite resource, so time spent in social networking must come at the expense of other activities,” Cousins said in a press release.

“Our study suggests that physical activity may be one of those activities.

The authors also found that about three-quarters of the respondents said they thought social networking didn't interfere with the time spent doing physical activity.

But about two-thirds of the students scored in the low and moderate physical activity categories. Specifically, 13 percent of respondents scored in the low category, and just over half at about 53 percent did moderate activity.

The rest were in the high activity level, and almost a quarter of students said they participated in team sports.

The more time spent on social networking sites, the lower students' total scores were on the physical activity part of the questionnaire from the previous week.

But it doesn't necessarily mean that Facebook is the cause for sitting around more, the authors say.

“Social networking is now a fact of life,” Cousins wrote in an email.

“Given that people are now spending so much time on sites like Twitter and Facebook, we should see this as an opportunity for health professionals to use social networking to promote healthy lifestyles and spread the message about the importance of physical activity.”

The findings were presented Sept. 7 at the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society's Division of Health Psychology in Liverpool, England. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 12, 2012
Last Updated:
September 12, 2012