Sherry Pagoto, a psychologist at the Weight Center at UMass Memorial Medical Center, and a friend started tweeting about their ab workouts to keep each other on track. They pledged in June to do at least one plank exercise each day. When it was done, they sent out a message with the hashtag #PlankADay.
Today, about 2,100 people have started planking and tweeting with them, even participating in plank-at-work days and sending action photos.
"I can't stop planking now," said Pagoto.
Pagoto is a weight-loss counselor who studies how technology can be used to change people's behavioral choices, yet she said the mini Twitter movement she and Michael Bauman, a financial planner who lives outside of Detroit, started was "totally unintentional."
Their example speaks to how health professionals and lay people alike can leverage the power of social media as a tool to motivate, peer-pressure and (gently) prod people toward healthier living.
Pagoto started a database to track who was tweeting using the #PlankADay tag. (Hashtags make tweets more searchable and more visible in public feeds.) She and Bauman started a Twitter account for the Plank Police and use it to send reminders to people who miss more than two days of planking.
"It's amazing -- the power of social media to infect people with healthy lifestyle changes," Pagoto said.
Chelsea Conaboy can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @cconaboy.