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Published: March, 2014; Vol 10, Num 10

 

A Review:

SparkPeople Points Way to Healthy Lifestyle

By Jamie Becker

It’s early in the year and some people may still be sticking to their New Year’s Resolutions. But more than likely, most resolutions have fallen by the wayside and a decision needs to be made about whether to try to get back on track.

Resolutions often have to do with improving food choices, exercising and generally trying to live a healthier life. Today, there are unlimited online resources for people to choose from to aid them in their quest for resolution success. One of the more popular online “health” websites is SparkPeople. SparkPeople is an all-encompassing health and fitness website that focuses on goal setting and motivation – two of the most challenging, yet important, aspects to getting started with making behavior changes.

SparkPeople is free and operates in a totally online environment. The site promotes healthy lifestyle choices rather than just dieting like many online weight-loss resources.

You may be thinking that nothing is truly free. Well SparkPeople is, and here is how that is possible. The creator of SparkPeople, Chris Downie, originally developed a company in the 1990s called Up4Sale, which he eventually sold to eBay. But Mr. Downie had a goal and a passion to help people live healthy lives. So he used some of the proceeds from the sale of his company to start SparkPeople. It really is an amazing story.

SparkPeople supports a healthy lifestyle by offering nutrition, health and fitness tools, including trackers, in addition to support, message boards and health-related resources. The site supports a multitude of topics ranging from food choices and how to find time to be active to dealing with stress and depression.

I recently went online and joined SparkPeople to get a firsthand understanding of the buzz and hype I had been hearing and reading about. Registration was easy and only a minimal amount of personal information had to be shared. Personalized diet and fitness plans are based on the information you give when you join.

The site is truly amazing but admittedly, can be overwhelming. It was like online Disney World™ but for adult health. There is a lot to look at and click on so you just have to dive in and get started.

Once you are logged in, go to the “Site Guide” – which has a drop-down menu – and click on “Welcome Guide”. This will provide more information about how best to use the site.

I was particularly impressed by the active online community. There were “chats” about numerous topics where people were asking questions, looking for support and just generally wanting to communicate with others dealing with similar issues. The site provides an amazing sense of support for people who want to succeed in their health-related goals. The communication on the site was incredibly positive and I pictured all of the users smiling from their computers.

One downside is that in order to offset some of the site’s costs, there are a lot of advertisements on screen. While that is normal on many websites these days, it can be a bit distracting.

If you are looking for an online resource to help you change certain health-related behaviors such as improving your diet and/or becoming more physically active, I highly recommend checking out SparkPeople.

[Jamie Becker is the LHSFNA's Associate Director of Health Promotion.]