Sometimes the Internet seems like a giant suck hole of time-wasting listicles and videos of dogs eating corn. But then there are other times where we're reminded of its vast power to foster positive change.
Take the seemingly humble Facebook event entitled "30 Day Ab Challenge." OK, it's not the Arab Spring, but a month ago 40-year-old Montana mother-of-eight Robyn Mendenhall Gardner decided to create the event to keep her motivated and accountable as she tackled the month-long fitness routine, which she'd found online. She put it up and then watched in amazement as, within days, 2.7 million people had joined her on her quest for a rock-hard middle.
Mendenhall Gardner had stumbled onto something that's increasingly clear in the Internet age: Digital peer pressure from social networks can nudge people into getting off their asses and getting into shape. Like a virtual Weight Watchers meeting, social-media apps and events like the ab challenge offer inspiration and ass-kicking in equal measure to help you stay on target.
So if you've been having trouble getting into a regular workout groove, jump on the bandwagon and try one of the following social-media fitness challenges out.
Where to find it: Facebook
The plank challenge guides you from doing a 20-second plank on Day One all the way up to a 4.5-minute plank on Day 29. While there's debate about the effectiveness of marathon planks, the exercise is still regarded as one of the top overall core-strengthening moves. Vary it to get the most bang for your efforts.
Where to find it: Facebook
Officially this challenge was for May, but you can follow it anytime. It has you doing 30 pushups a day for 30 days. If you can't do that many, do what you can. Combine it with the plank challenge above and you'll be well on your way to pretty killer shape after 30 days.
Where to find it: App stores
Cost: Free for Android and iOS, unless you don't meet your goals
Pact adds another of layer of social accountability to getting healthy by bringing cold, hard cash into the equation. Each week you set your own health and or fitness goal (e.g., go the gym three times), and then you either get paid for reaching it, or pay into a common pool if you fail. (This is the pool the winners are paid out from.) You won't get rich (rewards average 30 cents to $5 a week), but in an effort to hold on to your hard-earned money (penalties start at $5 per day of missed goals), you will get healthier.
Where to find it: App stores and online
Cost: Free, with paid upgrades
Fitocracy is an entire social network devoted to getting fit and healthy. You could find yourself never checking Facebook again as you get more and more enmeshed in its community of, um, fitocrats? Borrowing from gaming, you earn points for your healthy activities. You can also create public or private groups on the website to challenge friends or the Fitocracy community at large to fitness contests. Through the site's Facebook-like messaging system, you can also give props to or trash talk your fellow fitness fans.