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Can Social Networking + Cubicles = Better Fitness?

If we spent half as much time exercising as we did wasting time on Facebook, Pinterest, and all the other social networks that clog our desktop, we’d be able to compete in the next Olympics and win. Sadly, working out isn’t nearly as much fun and noodling around on the internet — or at least, not yet.

That might be about to change, however. A few companies are developing fitness-oriented social networks that are intended to inspire office cubicle dwellers to shed pounds, get in shape, and just generally put their couch potato ways behind them.

Ninety percent of companies already use the internet to administer their wellness programs, which are intended to reduce soaring health care costs by motivating employees to start exercising, quit smoking, and make better choices from the snack machine. Integrating social networking is just the latest step in making fitness more palatable to workers.

There are a few options available to employers who want their wellness program to look more like Facebook and less like a training manual that someone would use for a coaster. Here are three of the current offerings.

1. ShapeUp

shapeup

ShapeUp boasts a client list that includes Aetna, Highmark, and National Grid, and some pretty impressive numbers: according to their research, 30 – 50 percents of employees use their social media wellness program, as opposed 8 – 15 percent at companies that use traditional wellness programs. (And honestly, we would have guessed that number to be far lower, just based on anecdotal evidence at companies we’ve worked at over the years.)

Dr. Rajiv Kumar, founder and chief medical officer of ShapeUp, attributes this higher participation rate to “social accountability.” The site works much like Facebook, and allows users to create teams and motivate each other to be more active.

“We believe this peer accountability, which is stronger than accountability to a faceless HR department, can be as powerful, if not more, than financial incentives,” Kumar said.

2. Fitocracy.com

fitocracy

Fitocracy, on the other hand, appears to be more similar to goals-driven sites like Foursquare. Although you can’t use it to become the mayor of your gym (a.k.a., the saddest mayorship of all) you can earn points for workouts, unlock achievements, and move up levels. All of which might be perfect for a person who is competitive — especially with themselves.

3. Daily Mile

dailymile

And now we have the fitness incarnation of Twitter, Daily Mile. There are lots of workout logging apps that will enable you to track your personal progress and compare it against your goals, but Daily Mile throws in a little bit of social media magic in the form of a feed. As other people post their progress, you can feel inspired (or superior). But most of all, this tool allows you to feel connected to folks who are trying to get fit, just like you.

Posted by James Wilkie

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