No really, Twitter may not make you fitter

Time spent on social networking sites seems to come at the expense of other activities, including physical activity. So says a new study reported at the British Psychological Society Division of Health Psychology Conference from 5-7 September 2012.

The results from an online survey of 350 students seemed to indicate that the majority of students used social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter for an average of one hour a day. In terms of their physical activity, 25% of the sample said they took part in team sports, and just over half the students were classified as ‘moderately active’, a third reported ‘high activity’, and 13% were in the ‘low activity’ group.

The interesting part of the results is the finding that the amount of time spent on social networks was negatively related with the respondents’ level of physical activity in the previous week. It doesn’t prove a causal link between social network use and lower levels of physical activity, or the direction of that link, but it does throw up some intriguing possibilities. The authors hypothesise that time spent on social networking means there is less time for other activities, and physical activity might be a casualty of the choice of how time is spent.

The idea that time is a finite resource underlines the importance of an awareness of how we choose to spend it. Often, we can mindlessly fritter away hours mooching around the net aimlessly. That’s fine every now and again, but if we find ourselves doing that day after day, it may be worth asking ourselves what we could be doing instead.