BU researchers use Twitter and AI to see who is hitting the gym

July 18, 2019

Social media data can provide a population-level view of physical activity, from bowling to Crossfit, and inform future efforts to tackle health disparities.

A new study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers and published in BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine used machine learning to find and comb through exercise-related tweets from across the United States, unpacking regional and gender differences in exercise types and intensity levels. By analyzing the language of the tweets, this method was also able to show how different populations feel about different kinds of exercise.

"In most cases, lower-income communities tend to lack access to resources that encourage a healthy lifestyle," says study senior author Dr. Elaine Nsoesie, assistant professor of global health at BUSPH. "By understanding differences in how people are exercising across different communities, we can design interventions that target the specific needs of those communities."

In the future, social media and other digital data could help create interventions and policies informed not just by the habits of these communities, but also by what they think of different physical activities, says study lead author Dr. Nina Cesare, a postdoctoral associate in global health at BUSPH. "We believe this work provides a step in the right direction."

The researchers used a set of AI models to find and analyze 1,382,284 relevant tweets by 481,146 Twitter users in 2,900 US counties (and get rid of false positives, like references to The Walking Dead or watching sports, or using the expression "running late"). Finally, the researchers compared tweets by men and women, and from four different regions of the country: the Northeast, the South, the Midwest, and the West.

The top exercise terms were "walk," "dance," "golf," "workout," "run," "pool," "hike," "yoga," "swim," and "bowl." Walking was the most popular activity overall, but other activities varied by gender and region. Women in the West did more intensive exercise than in any other region, while the Midwest had the most intensive exercise among men. Men did slightly more intensive exercise than women overall, and South had the biggest gender gap in exercise intensity.
-end-
About the Boston University School of Public Health

Founded in 1976, the Boston University School of Public Health is one of the top five ranked private schools of public health in the world. It offers master's- and doctoral-level education in public health. The faculty in six departments conduct policy-changing public health research around the world, with the mission of improving the health of populations--especially the disadvantaged, underserved, and vulnerable--locally and globally.

Contact: Michelle Samuels, 617-358-3453, msamu@bu.edu

Boston University School of Medicine

Related Physical Activity Articles from Brightsurf:

Physical activity in the morning could be most beneficial against cancer
The time of day when we exercise could affect the risk of cancer due to circadian disruption, according to a new study with about 3,000 Spanish people  

Physical activity and sleep in adults with arthritis
A new study published in Arthritis Care & Research has examined patterns of 24-hour physical activity and sleep among patients with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and knee osteoarthritis.

Regular physical activity seems to enhance cognition in children who need it most
Researchers at the Universities of Tsukuba and Kobe re-analyzed data from three experiments that tested whether physical activity interventions lead to improved cognitive skills in children.

The benefits of physical activity for older adults
New findings published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports reveal how physically active older adults benefit from reduced risks of early death, breast and prostate cancer, fractures, recurrent falls, functional limitations, cognitive decline, dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and depression.

Physical activity may protect against new episodes of depression
Increased levels of physical activity can significantly reduce the odds of depression, even among people who are genetically predisposed to the condition.

Is physical activity always good for the heart?
Physical activity is thought to be our greatest ally in the fight against cardiovascular disease.

Physical activity in lessons improves students' attainment
Students who take part in physical exercises like star jumps or running on the spot during school lessons do better in tests than peers who stick to sedentary learning, according to a UCL-led study.

Physical activity may attenuate menopause-associated atherogenic changes
Leisure-time physical activity is associated with a healthier blood lipid profile in menopausal women, but it doesn't seem to entirely offset the unfavorable lipid profile changes associated with the menopausal transition.

Are US adults meeting physical activity guidelines?
The proportion of US adults adhering to the 'Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans' from the US Department of Health and Human Services didn't significantly improve between 2007 and 2016 but time spent sitting increased.

Children from disadvantaged backgrounds do less vigorous physical activity
Children from disadvantaged backgrounds and certain ethnic minority backgrounds, including from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds, have lower levels of vigorous physical activity, according to researchers at the University of Cambridge.

Read More: Physical Activity News and Physical Activity Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.