Online Fitness Communities – Sparkpeople

Posted: January 25, 2014 in Fitness, General

These days there is an online community for anything and everything, fitness and health are no exceptions. I’ll periodically publish my thoughts on these organisations. The first one I ever found was Sparkpeople

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You can find it here

According to Twitter it has 50k+ followers and a 126k+ followers on Google+. Overall it’s what looks like nice side of the fitness industry. Its full of bright colours and made up of people who cheer on your every success no matter how small. While it does have some sections about exercise the focus in mostly about weight reduction through diet. It has various challenges and lots of groups for different things.

Sign up and you will get daily emails full of general advice and recipes for low-calorie meals (e.g. 10 creative ways to use bagged greens’). Fitness advice like how to do an 11 minute cardio workout while sitting down. There is always the healthy thought of the day and an allegedly funny cartoon.

One feature is how you can get Spark Points for achievements. These are for just about anything and tend to be far more about trying than achieving. There are members blogs where the faithful can let you know how well they are doing and more commonly all the reasons behind the changes they are about to make to their lives. There are motivational comments aplenty. It’s really quite commendable, and yet… and yet… it drives me nuts!

Firstly, its loaded with adverts, it might be dressed up as a health and fitness community but it’s also a means of driving traffic to the adverts. I also find the people who contribute just too mumsy for me. A  large number of the community members seem to be overweight female middle-aged types just desperate to discuss their weight with each other and what they are planning to do about it. Less so what they are doing. Its like the Women’s Institute for diet and fitness. There are also lots of religious quotes given to people in the way of praise for doing well.  Or even just the ‘God bless’ routine for anything and everything. I know its meant well, but whenever they get together cheering for each other with the religious connotations I just wish someone would post ‘Fucking A, you nailed that motherfucker!’ Even if just for a bit of variety.

Perhaps I have got the wrong end of the stick, but it seems like so many of them are seriously obese. This isn’t where fit people go to talk about maintaining their fitness. It’s where really overweight people go to talk about what they are going to do to get fit and how they are doing really well because they walked to the bus stop today. In true Sparkpeople style that would have about 30 people saying how well the writer had done in making those first steps on their own to the bus stop. There are so many posts about ‘how this time its going to be different’ or about how their weight yo-yo’s all the time. Yet they then continue to do the same as last time and wonder why the results are the same too. There seems to be a lot of people talking about plans to change or how they have just started to change and far fewer saying ‘already good and keeping it that way’.

Overall Sparkpeople to me has a load of very genuinely unhappy people all trying to make changes while the people who operate the site must make a fortune in the advertising from the traffic. It’s hard for me not to be cynical about it. They must have their success stories, and they don’t promise anyone results, yet to me it still feels manipulative. There isn’t anything wrong in what they do, there are no lies or false promises. Instead its a community where a lot of unfortunate people can suffer/struggle together. That bit is fine with me, but someone is definitely making money out of them at the same time and that’s the bit that doesn’t sit so well.

Major plus point – feel good about yourself by being with others of a similar condition. The community spirit is one of support.

Down side – I suspect the success rates are poor. If you are serious about improving your fitness then this is not the place.

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