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Getting physical, getting digital and getting social

Under Armour’s acquisition of MapMyFitness demonstrates the importance of digital tracking to athletic apparel companies. But the increasing digital focus from companies like Under Armour, Nike and Adidas also demonstrates another growing consideration in the world of health and fitness, social media.

In commenting on the acquisition, Josh Levinson, an avid runner and owner of Charm City Run, attributed the popularity of MapMyFitness to two crowds: “über performance athletes,” and “the young crowd that likes to share.”

MapMyFitness and Nike+ each have around 20 million registered users — nowhere near Facebook popularity, but substantial. These platforms allow users to keep track of their routes, workouts and accomplishments for personal use, but they also create the opportunity to make that exercise activity public.

JoggingRunning as an athletic activity has grown in popularity — as cited in Friday’s Daily Record article, an increasing number of individuals classify themselves as occasional or frequent runners. According to the Running USA 2013 State of the Sport, 49.2 million people run 25 or more days per year. Of those, about 9.2 million run at least 110 days per year.

Levinson said this may be attributable in part to the affordability of running and walking as an exercise program. Even after a runner has purchased the shoes and clothing they may need (or want) for the sport, they’re likely saving cash over a gym membership.

But in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece posted Tuesday, writer Chad Stafko aired a slightly different theory — that more people want to run because it is a form of exercise they can easily broadcast to the world, even before they post it to Facebook, Twitter or MapMyRun.

“There is no more visible form of strenuous exercise than running,” he wrote. “These days, people want more than ever to be seen. This is the age of taking a photo selfie and posting it on Facebook with the announcement that you’re bored—in the hope that someone will ‘like’ that information.”

Stafko admits that not all runners are motivated by the “look-at-me desire,” as he calls it. But with increasingly popular apps that allow runners, cyclers, walkers and hikers to flaunt their success, he may have a point.

But sharing ability is great for the health and fitness community, said Levinson. Because what does a person want to do when they’ve seen that their friend was out running? Well, they might want to go for a run.

And every shoe-scuffing, shirt-soaking mile inspired by a social media status, well that’s good news for the athletic apparel industry.