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Could Facebook be making you fat?

14 September 2012, 08:55

A new study suggests that the more time people spend on Facebook, Twitter or other social networking sites, the less active they are and the more susceptible to weight gain.

In the study, researchers from the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland had 350 students complete an online survey. The students answered questions about their levels of social networking activity and physical activity.

Most students used social networking sites for an average of one hour each day, according to the study. Slightly more than half of the students rated themselves as "moderately active," one-third of the participants said they were "highly active" and 12.7% reported "low physical activity". Of the students involved in the study, 25% said they participated in team sports.

What the study found

After examining the information collected, however, the researchers found that time the students spent on social networking sites cut into time they spent exercising or being physically active. The study also found people who were fans of Facebook were less likely to play team sports.

"Time is a finite resource, so time spent in social networking must come at the expense of other activities. Our study suggests that physical activity may be one of those activities," study lead author Dr Wendy Cousins, a psychologist at the University of Ulster, said in a university news release.

"Our findings are intriguing," she added, "but we have not conclusively demonstrated that social networking causes lower levels of physical activity. We will need to carry out more research to see if it really is a case of Facebook makes you fat rather than Twitter makes you fitter."

The study was expected to be presented at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society's Division of Health Psychology in Liverpool. Research presented at medical meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.


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