Does your running need a digital detox?

·2-min read
Photo credit: Westend61 - Getty Images
Photo credit: Westend61 - Getty Images

Fitness trackers may help to measure your physical health, but, combined with a compulsion to share information on social media platforms, they can take their toll on your mental wellbeing. That’s the finding of a new study into health-tracking technology (eg Fitbit, MyFitness Pal, Strava).

This is the first research of its kind to explore how self-tracking tech and self-representations of identity on social media, in particular Instagram, may affect the health of a user offline. Lead study author Rachael Kent (drdigihealth.co.uk) says: ‘users become pressure to perform identities and be a health “role model” on Instagram and these traits become addictive, which, in turn, cause users to become highly competitive and comparative to other people they see online. In most cases this pressure to share and track their routine on social media and online makes users obsessive, compulsive and develop addictive relationships with fitness trackers.’

Time to unplug?

Three signs your attitude to your fitness tracker has become unhealthy – and what to do about it

Symptom: You’re checking your online fitness stats at antisocial hours.

Remedy: Set social media cut-off times. For example no checking your device before 9am or after 5pm.

Symptom: You feel anxious if you run without your fitness tracker.

Remedy: Commit to doing at least one run a week without your watch. Once you get out the door, you may be surprised by how liberating this feels.

Symptom: You feel pressure to run fast all the time.

Remedy: Follow a proper schedule – there are many available here – and remember, even Eliud Kipchoge does his recovery runs at 9:40 per mile.

Share in the community?

Sports psychologist Dr Josie Perry (performanceinmind.co.uk) makes the case for and against social media

PROS

Confidence: ‘We get vicarious confidence from seeing people like us achieving something and thinking, “If they can do it, maybe I can, too.”’

Community: ‘Runners who train solo can get lonely, so they value having social media as a place to interact with other runners.’

CONS

Distraction: ‘You can get distracted by challenging goals that can injure you or get in the way of other running targets.’

Pressure: ‘If you’re worried about what your run is going to look like when you upload it– how far or how fast – that adds pressure.’

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