Hiding behind the choreographed dances and Kardashian lip syncs, there’s a huge wellbeing community.
When you think of TikTok, what springs to mind? Choreographed dances? Lip synching? Beauty modes? Whatever it is, we’re willing to bet that you probably haven’t associated it with wellness – until now. TikTok is the newest social media platform to harbour an audience over the age of, well, puberty.
Although TikTok is deemed a hang-out platform for teenagers, the app has seen adult users multiply five times over between October 2017 and March 2019 with the #over30 hashtag trending.
From Gordon Ramsey and Jessica Alba, to The Rock and Courtney Cox, celeb parents are leading the way in learning dances and skits with their children during lockdown, embracing the embarrassing parent label and showing that it’s actually quite fun being silly – whatever your age.
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If there’s one aspect of TikTok that serves all age groups, it’s the #wellness-tagged videos which have been viewed over 180 million times by the app’s 800 million active users, while its #health-tagged posts have been viewed 2.7 billion times. Everyone from nurses and doctors to personal trainers and chefs have been sharing their top tips, recipes and workout plans as we all hunker down at home, finding new ways to pass the time and add healthy value to our daily routines. And millions are here for it.
While Instagram has held the top spot as the most popular social media platform for the last decade, the changing algorithm and promotional traps have left users missing the social sense of community that TikTok can offer in abundance. Unlike its competitors, TikTok content doesn’t measure its success on likes or comments. Instead, the platform measures how users interact with the videos.
So, if a workout or dance is learned and shared, it will go viral (no matter how many followers you have) and push it to a new audience consistently.
“On TikTok, it’s important to quickly grasp the attention of the audience,” says Lindell Nuyttens (@strechylicious) who has already amassed 50k followers. “I like to show that this could be them in my videos and the music used on TikTok gives the content a more fun and rhythmic character and translates a specific mood. I share my routines in the hope that my followers feel inspired or motivated to start or continue a stretching or yoga practice.”
Sure, Facebook and Instagram Live offer the same video capabilities that can inspire users, but what sets TikTok apart is the ability to learn how to make that exact stir-fry dish or yoga sequence and share it with a host of other users who have completed exactly the same recipe or workout, – all grouped together in one place and on one stream. And with that, a social bond is formed.
“The mental health benefits of exercising in tandem with other people or in a synchronised way come from two sources,” Dr Philip Clarke, lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology at the University of Derby begins. “The first is the benefits gained from engaging in exercise itself. These types of “trends” allow for some people who are being more sedentary than usual (due to being in lockdown) to start taking part in some physical activity. Secondly, it has the benefits of connecting with people, and feeling part of the herd.
“These feelings of connection are so important at the moment with us being in isolation, especially if you’re by yourself. These mental health benefits include helping to manage stress and anxiety due to increased levels of endorphins released during exercise, increased mood state, better sleep quality and overall increase in energy. Research shows that these benefits are increased further when they are done in a group setting.”
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Finding ourselves in a socially distant world has bred a new need for connection and exercise has become a key area that allows people to gather, if only digitally.
Popular hashtags such as #indoorworkout (which has had over 3.2 billion views since lockdown) present quick circuit routines, mini challenges and heart-spiking choreography from influencers such as Cassey Ho and Jen Selter. Brands are also jumping on the bandwagon such as Gymshark who have amassed almost 2 million followers through their clever marketing strategy of using fitness influencers to create follow-along videos including two athletes performing the #stairshuffle challenge, followed by rhythmic airwalks on the pull-up bar.
Group exercise may not be anything new but there’s a fundamental difference between acing your weekly kettlebell class and sharing something new with, potentially, millions of strangers on the internet. Vulnerability is never comfortable, but there’s a charm to putting yourself out there that can attract like-minded individuals eager to support and try it for themselves.
“Coordinating our movements with others has played an integral role in human evolution,” says Dr Aria, clinical psychologist and high performance coach. “Synchrony, for instance serves crucial social functions by fostering connections with others, boosts feelings of solidarity and positive social behaviour, raises cooperation and increases compassion and trust. Research also shows that interpersonal synchrony influences self-esteem, with people tending to feel better about themselves when moving in time with others as opposed to their own rhythm.”
Not feeling that brave? No problem. You don’t have to lycra up for the plank challenge to enjoy a slice of the health benefits TikTok has to offer. As a mere bystander, laughing along to #gymfails or twerking policemen can provide more stress-busting relief than you might think.
“Due to the uncertainty of COVID-19, coupled with a lot of serious messages on social media, any form of positive distraction is essential for people to maintain a positive outlook and also to look after their mental health,” Dr Philip says. “Laughter and silliness is a fantastic way to socially connect, to de-stress and to experience feelings of happiness through chemical release such as endorphins.” Not to mention “boosting our immune system thanks to the decrease in cortisol and adrenaline levels and stimulating our body’s own natural analgesics,” according to Dr Aria.
And who knows, you may even meet a new tribe in the process.
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