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Researchers Employ Twitter to Gauge Exercise Around U.S.

By Maryland Today Staff

To learn who’s exercising, what activities they’re pursuing and where, researchers including a University of Maryland professor of epidemiology and biostatistics turned to a haven more commonly used by political junkies and celebrity gossipmongers: Twitter.

Assistant Professor Quynh Nguyen and researchers from Boston University’s School of Public Health analyzed over 80 million mentions of physical activity on Twitter from almost 500,000 users in over 2,900 U.S. counties, using machine learning and statistical modeling to ferret out sex and regional variations in preferred exercise and comparative activity levels. The findings were published in BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine.

Their findings show some variance in physical activity levels, intensity and activity preference by region and sex; for example, while both men and women mentioned going to the gym at similar rates, CrossFit was the most popular activity among men, compared to yoga for women.

Data from the social media platform could be useful for crafting policies to encourage exercise and better health in specific regions, the authors concluded.

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