The Perceived Believability of Exercise Blogs

  • Author / Creator
    Ori, Elaine
  • The purpose of this dissertation was to examine how exercise bloggers represent themselves and exercise information online, how young adult women perceive the believability of an exercise blog message, and whether believability predicted exercise-related intentions, and finally, to explore which aspects of an exercise blog message are perceived as believable and personally relevant. Using a multiple methods design, this work included three studies: a quantitative content analysis, an experimental study using an associative-propositional duality model, and a qualitative descriptive study.

    The first study used quantitative content analysis to examine the features of 194 popular exercise blogs, with a focus on blog authors. Additionally, 722 content pages from the blogs were analyzed for content type, post format, and interactive features. Results suggest that only 16.4% of bloggers report having exercise certifications although 57% report being a fitness/exercise professional. Blogs were highly interactive including comments sections, and content sharing with other social media platforms. Blogs may provide an online space for like-minded exercisers to connect; however, authorship ambiguity may leave readers uncertain about whether blog content is a reliable source of exercise information.

    The second study was an experimental design informed by the Associative-Propositional Evaluation model to examine both implicitly measured automatic believability, and explicitly measured self-reported perceptions of believability of an exercise blog article. A total of 141 females, aged 18-30 years, and residing in Canada were randomized to read either a factually incorrect or a factually correct blog article. Participants completed Go/No-Go tasks to measure automatically activated believability and evaluations, and questionnaires to explicitly measure believability, affective evaluations, and intentions to exercise. Participants did not show evidence of automatically activated believability of the content found in either blog article. However, participants reading the factually correct article reported significantly greater explicit disbelief than those reading the factually incorrect article though this did not predict intentions to exercise. Being factually correct may not be an important component of message believability. Exercise professionals need to remain aware of the content of popular, online sources of information in an effort to curb misinformation.

    The third study was a qualitative exploration of believability of emerging adult women after reading an exercise blog article. The purpose of this study was to explore which aspects of an exercise blog message are perceived as believable and personally relevant. Using a qualitative descriptive design, one-on-one interviews were completed by the principal investigator with ten women (Mage = 25.6 years) residing in a Western Canadian province, all of whom had or were currently attending university. All interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Qualitative content analysis was used to examine and categorise the data, in line with a qualitative description design. Following data analysis, four themes were identified related to blog article believability: reasons for source preference, information relevance, selective believability, and projecting believability. Exercise blogs may provide an opportunity for some individuals to learn about, and diversify personal exercise opportunities. Additionally, participants expressed concern for others, and the potential of these media to contribute to negative outcomes for individuals without prior knowledge in the health disciplines.

    Taken together, the three studies presented in this dissertation examine the characteristics of exercise blogs and bloggers, focusing on how the content may influence reader perceptions of believability and exercise intentions. Results of this work suggest that exercise blogs were not disbelieved and that emerging adult women perceive these media as a potential source of misinformation. It may be necessary for qualified exercise professionals to remain diligent about the content of exercise blogs in order to address misinformation found online.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.