‘When you think of exercising, you don’t really want to think of puking, tears, and pain’: Young adolescents’ understanding of fitness and #fitspiration

Beth T. Bell*, Nova Deighton-Smith, Megan Hurst

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adolescents access information about fitness, including content labelled as #fitspiration, through social media. A total of 77 adolescents (mean age = 12.49; standard deviation = 0.55; girls = 27) participated in semi-structured focus groups to explore their perspectives on #fitspiration and fitness more broadly. Through inductive thematic analysis, four themes were developed: (1) fitness enhances physical function and appearance, but these are not always linked; (2) fitness is transformative but requires hard work; (3) fitness should be an intrinsically motivated personal choice; and (4) pain in the pursuit of fitness. Findings highlight young adolescents’ complex understandings of fitness negotiated through their critical interpretation of #fitspiration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1046-1060
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Health Psychology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 12 Aug 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2019.


  • adolescence
  • exercise
  • physical activity
  • qualitative methods
  • social media

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