Every week, we’re bringing you a roundup of the latest health and wellness news to hit the wire. This week, we cover the downside of online fitness inspiration, the benefits of a slow start to race training, and tips on getting the most accurate information from your fitness tracker. 

Compare and despair

Online fitness communities and Instagram influencers with their “strong is the new skinny” messages, toned arms and rippling abs might seem like a healthier obsession for young women than sites and social media accounts merely idolizing thinness. Not so, say researchers from Griffith University in Australia in this Daily Mail article. They found that regular seekers of #fitspo from carefully curated Instagram feeds and blogs tended to feel just as bad about their bodies as those scrolling non-fitness-related #thinspo posts, ultimately leading to the same set of harmful behaviors such as depression, compulsive exercising and disordered eating.

“The desire for thinness in any form is enough to elicit harmful outcomes, irrespective of any coexisting muscular body goals,” said lead author Laura Uhlmann in the journal Body Image.

The study follows research released last year, revealing that women aged 18 to 25 who spent more than 30 minutes on Instagram a day were more likely to “self-objectify” and feel bad about their bodies, focusing more on appearance rather than their overall health and physical abilities—particularly when they’re comparing themselves to celebrities.

Slow and steady does win the race

You may feel like you’re slogging along when you compare your running pace to others, but coaches in this Washington Post article say there’s a good reason to take it slow and work up to greater speed.

Your risk of injury is lower when starting at a slower pace, allowing you to run more often each week. Increasing speed slowly also helps to build your body’s aerobic energy system, which converts oxygen into the energy needed to finish that half marathon. If all your runs are too fast, depleting all your oxygen and pushing you into an anaerobic zone, your muscles convert glycogen less efficiently and you’re more likely to slow or stop.

If all your runs are this fast, you’re not developing the power you’ll need for longer races, says Claire Bartholic, a masters athlete and coach at Runners Connect, an online community of runners and coaches. Certified distance coach William Etti said paring back to slow running helped him cut his marathon time from 5 hours, 51 minutes in 2014 to 3 hours, 57 minutes in 2016.

To figure out your sweet spot for slower running, use this formula to calculate your heart rate, says Carwyn Sharp, Ph.D., chief science officer at the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Multiply your age by 0.7 and subtract this number from 208. Most runners will want to stay between 60 to 70 percent of this maximum.

Finesse your Fitbit with these tips

Feel like you’re not getting credit for all the movement you pack in each day? Check out these tips for fine-tuning your tracker, according to CNET.

  1. Double-check that the information you plugged into the app at registration, including gender, height and weight, is accurate. If your weight has changed, that will affect the algorithm and the estimated calorie burn.
  2. When you’re wearing your tracker, don’t let it slide around on your wrist. To get the most accurate heart rate, make sure that it’s tight without pinching your skin and that the sensor sits on top of your wrist.
  3. Distance is determined by your stride, pace and GPS. If you haven’t taken the time to calibrate your stride, invest a few minutes and you will be rewarded with more accurate counts.

Photo credit: asoggetti, Unsplash