The research is unequivocal: People who work out in tandem are more likely to achieve their fitness goals than those who go it alone. Align yourself with a community of people who have similar objectives and you’ll not only be held accountable for your efforts, but you may also benefit from the supportive camaraderie. Add a little healthy competition to the mix, and you may be inspired to push yourself harder than you would if you were working out solo.
Can’t recruit a buddy in the flesh? A variety of online fitness communities can help you achieve your workout goals. Many are free of charge and others come with a modest cost. Some even incorporate apps, gadgets and other devices to help you stay on track. Another bonus: Online communities are available 24/7 and they offer an ideal forum for learning from other fitness enthusiasts without having to make a major time commitment.
Here are five communities that may help you achieve your fitness goals:
- Fitocracy. As a member of Fitocracy, you’ll get hooked up with an online personal trainer to provide built-in accountability. You’ll earn points for each workout activity you complete (and track), and for every milestone you achieve you’ll be awarded with badges and props. For a more interactive experience, you can sign up for challenges with friends or join community chat groups.
- MyFitnessPal. MyFitnessPal tracks your activity and food intake using a searchable database of more than 1 million food items. That’s a huge advantage since most people dramatically underestimate how much they eat and overestimate how much they move. A supportive online community serves as a forum for success stories, weight loss tips, and other motivators.
- MapMyFitness. Like MapMyRun, MapMyFitness maps running routes and tracks your progress through a mobile app. Complete a 13-mile training session? Share it with your friends on Facebook. Unsure of how many calories you consumed? Track what you eat and break it down by fat and calories. You can even share heart-healthy recipes with other members.
- BodySpace. As the social networking arm of bodybuilding.com, BodySpace targets weightlifters and bodybuilders who want to boost performance, tone their figures, and add more tools to their weight-lifting or bodybuilding arsenal. In addition to connecting with like-minded lifters, you can choose from a database of fitness plans (many designed by celebrities) and track your progress online or with the site’s mobile app.
- Fitbit. This online fitness community is unique in that it revolves around the company’s wearable fitness products that track essentials like steps taken, distance traveled and stairs climbed. You can even join interest-based groups like Training for a 5K, Losing the last 10 or Detroit Runners to connect with like-minded fitness enthusiasts. A bonus: You can add people to your friend list and start fitness challenges with up to 10 other exercisers. The platform pits you against one another to see, for example, who takes the most steps over a given time period.
While many online fitness communities can serve as great motivators for both new and seasoned exercisers, they aren’t tailor-made for your individual workout needs. And because there are so many platforms to choose from, it’s important to take your time and shop around. Meeting with a personal trainer in the flesh prior to joining a fitness community, even for just a few sessions, can help you establish your goals and lead you in the right direction.