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Researchers used Twitter to study exercise preferences

Exercise-related terms appearing most often were related to activities like yoga, walking, swimming, golf, but also billiards and bowling.

What are the typical profiles of amateur athletes in the United States? How can public health messaging encouraging physical activity best target local populations? These questions were the basis of a study led by doctors from Boston University's School of Public Health.

The authors of the new study published in BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine fine-combed 1,382,284 exercise-related tweets from 481,146 Twitter users from four US regions: the Northeast, the South, the Midwest, and the West.  

The objective for using this method was to create a list of the most-practiced sports activities at the amateur level and to establish profiles based on sex, regional origin, and exercise intensity levels.

Exercise-related terms appearing most frequently related to various activities such as yoga, walking, swimming, golf, and also billiards and bowling. Walking was the overall most popular activity, but the other activities varied according to sex and regional origin.

Women from the Western region of the United States did more high-intensity exercise than women in other regions, while men in the Midwest did the most high-intensity exercise. The difference in exercise intensity was greatest between men and women in the South.

"The regional-specific and sex-specific activity patterns captured on Twitter may allow public health officials to identify changes in health behaviors at small geographical scales and to design interventions best suited for specific populations," concluded the authors of the study.