Social fitness networking


September 20, 2011

Staying in shape is difficult, and becomes even tougher if not accompanied by tools such as proper measurement devices or a daily log. Several online services have been around since the advent of the Internet, and offer several options for users. But on the other hand, they may even confuse them.

Newcomers in the field should try several services in order to weigh their pros and cons, and then settle on one that suits them best. They are advised to try out the new services that have been launched recently, because they offer what the earlier ones did, and much more.

One of the newly launched fitness services is Skinnyo (http://skinnyo.com). As the name suggests, its main purpose is to help people lose weight and stay healthy. But unlike any other service, it also acts as a social network that encourages you to keep using it by setting challenges against your friends and colleagues.

Many previously introduced fitness services allowed users to share their progress through their favourite social network. But here, it is two - a fitness website and a social network - rolled into one. Becoming a member on Skinnyo is free. After creating an account, it is necessary to fill in essential information such as your gender, date of birth, activity level, weight, height and the goal weight.

The next step is weighing yourself so the information will start appearing on your diary page. The 'My diary' page contains all the statistics on your progress over time, from your Body Mass Index (BMI) to your weight. It presents all the data on one simple board. On the right, it shows the results of your goals, like how much weight you have lost (or gained).

Besides that, at the bottom, there is a timeline that shows your updates and others’ comments, if any. The timeline with your network of friends and their updates is a familiar concept, probably taken from the popular social micro-blogging website Twitter. The most exciting thing about Skinnyo is the challenges. They can be created by yourself or you can join those set by others. The most common ones are related to weight loss. On the page of each challenge, there is a main graph, the number of teams enrolled and the time it will take.

Challenges can be about any habit related to health, not just weight maintenance goals. Like the one I joined immediately, which is cutting out snacks for a month. I know it will be a big challenge. Someone has even created a challenge to imitate the popular weight loss TV programme The Biggest Loser.

You can go head to head with your friends in other calorie cutting competitions as well. Since the service is intended largely to motivate the user, its developers have added an element that is common to most social networks and also among video games players - which is the achievement of badges or points.

Badges (virtual ones, of course) are awarded for completing a certain task on the website, and some can be earned after achieving one of your goals. In order to really make the best of Skinnyo, you have to convince your friends to join the service and actually use it. Not a disadvantage, but like many other services based on the social element, it is worth nothing if your friends are not using it.

I also noticed a low activity level by public users of the website. This could be because it is not popular yet.

Mohammed al Asmar is a technologist and web solutions developer. He has been working for more than ten years in different roles in ICT.