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The impact of health and fitness social media on physical activity and body image in adolescents


Sport, Health and Exercise Science

About the Project

Around 50% of young people engage with health and fitness content on social media (Crane et al., 2015). Young people’s engagement with health-related social media has been shown to impact their health-related knowledge and behaviours, such as physical activity, diet and mental health (Goodyear and Quennerstedt, 2019). Health and fitness-related social media often positions physical attractiveness as the ultimate goal of exercise (Deighton-Smith, 2016) and focuses on the achievement of an external goal e.g. the attainment of a physical ideal. Furthermore, images also focus on guilt to regulate physical activity behaviours (Deighton-Smith, 2016). However, relatively little is known about differences in adolescents’ appraisals across different social media platforms and the subsequent implications for physical activity motivation and body image.

Using self-determination theory as a guiding framework, this study will explore young people’s use of health and fitness-related social media across a range of different platforms (e.g. Instagram, Youtube and TikTok). The aim of this study is to explore how different social media platforms impact physical activity motivation, behaviours and body image. Furthermore, the study aims to explore how young people engage with different social media platforms to create understandings of their health, body image, physical activity and fitness. This study will be a mixed-method design, utilising both quantitative and qualitative methodologies.

Applicants interested in pursuing the project would ideally have backgrounds in sport health and exercise sciences, social psychology, exercise psychology, physical education or any other related subject.

Funding Notes

Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here: View Website. Recently the UK Government made available the Doctoral Student Loans of up to £25,000 for UK and EU students and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.)

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