July 9, 2013 at 1:01 PM ET
They are either America's fittest cities -- or they're cities whose residents are most likely to blab about their workouts all over Facebook.
The social networking site just released a ranking of the nation's healthiest urban areas, a list that was compiled using check-ins, use of fitness apps or mentions of physical activity or weight loss in a status update or comment. Here’s a handy infographic provided by Facebook so you can see for yourself:
Facebook's take on the country's fittest cities should, of course, be taken with a grain of salt. For one, it doesn't factor in things like obesity rates, or access to public parks or bike paths. That's probably one of the reasons why the rankings includes some surprising places -- like Oklahoma City, which is among Facebook's top 10 fittest cities, and it's even America's top "Runner City" according to the social networking site. But that city came in last out of 50 in a ranking released last month by the American College of Sports Medicine's annual American Fitness Index, because of factors like the city's higher obesity, diabetes and smoking rates.
And you have to wonder -- are the people who are noisiest about their workouts online really doing everything they say they're doing in real life?
"There are people out there, they lie about things like running marathons," says Kelly Olexa, a fitness blogger in Chicago and founder of FitFluential, a network of "fitness enthusiasts" who share their healthy habits over social media. FitFluential selects fitness bloggers around the country to serve as "ambassadors," who work with brands on product launches or social media campaigns. In the two years since FitFluential was launched, Olexa says she's had a handful of ambassadors who exaggerated their workouts on their online platforms. They said they'd run marathons and they hadn't; they said they'd lost incredible amounts of weight and they didn't.
But even if Facebook's ranking doesn't really represent America's fittest cities, this is a real reminder that for some people, social media can be a useful motivator for sticking to a healthy lifestyle.
"I think it's an excellent way to get that accountability by sharing goals, and people want to know what you’re doing," says Anthony Wall, a personal trainer in San Diego and the director of professional education for the American Council on Exercise.
Every day, Olexa uses Instagram to post photos of her workout or the healthy foods she's eating. She also uses the MyFitnessPal app every day to log her calories consumed and burned. She says that "having people cheer you on, and knowing what I do is motivating other people" is why she regularly uses social media to keep her fitness goals on track.
“I get inspired and I kind of mentally feel every day that people on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram are watching me, so I can’t not do what I said I was going to do,” says Olexa.