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What are online communities? 

What are online communities?

In this section we’ll introduce you to online communities, explore the different types of online communities and take a closer look at which online communities are most appropriate for supporting people to be physically active.


An online community is a virtual space where individuals with shared interests, goals or experiences can come together to interact, collaborate and engage in discussions through digital platforms. These communities can take various forms, including online forums, social media groups, chat rooms and more. Members of online communities often connected based on common hobbies, beliefs or experiences, allowing them to forge connections and exchange information and ideas. 

Online communities provide a platform for individuals to seek advice, share knowledge, offer support and build relationships with like-minded individuals, usually on topics of mutual interest. They can also foster a sense of belonging and identity, as members of online communities often develop a shared sense of belonging and camaraderie, despite being physical separated. These online communities play an important role in the digital age, connecting people from diverse backgrounds and facilitating social interaction in an online environment.

Online communities provide a supportive, informative, and motivating environment that can help individuals overcome barriers to physical activity, maintain consistency in their exercise routines, and ultimately lead healthier lives.

  • Motivation and Accountability: Online communities often serve as sources of motivation and accountability. Members can set fitness goals, share their progress, and encourage each other to stay active. The sense of community and the desire to keep up with fellow members can be a powerful motivator to maintain a regular exercise routine.
  • Sharing Resources: These communities are great platforms for sharing information, such as workout routines, nutritional advice, and tips for staying active. Members can benefit from the collective knowledge and experience of the group, which can help them make informed decisions about their fitness journey.
  • Social Support: Engaging with an online fitness community can provide emotional support during challenging times. Members can share their struggles, seek advice, and receive encouragement from others who may have faced similar obstacles. This support network can help individuals overcome barriers and stay committed to their fitness goals.
  • Variety and Creativity: Online communities can introduce individuals to a variety of physical activities and workout routines they may not have considered otherwise. Members often share innovative and fun ways to stay active, promoting diversity in exercise choices and preventing boredom.
  • Accessibility: Online communities are accessible to people of all fitness levels, including those with limited access to traditional gym facilities or fitness trainers. This inclusivity makes it easier for individuals to find a fitness routine that suits their needs and resources.
  • Tracking Progress: Many online fitness platforms offer tools for tracking and visualizing progress. Members can record their achievements and milestones, which can boost their confidence and sense of accomplishment as they see their physical fitness improve over time.


There are 6 main types of online communities:

1. Brand communities

A brand community is a group of people who have a strong connection to a brand, and interact with its content, products and services.

2. Support communities

A support community is somewhere people go to seek advice and support. They usually consist of a group of people who come together to share their experiences and provide support to one another to overcome a problem or challenge.

3. Learning communities

People looking to learn, often want to do so with others. A learning community provides these people with an opportunity to come together and share similar goals for the growth of knowledge.

4. Network communities

Networks are all about connection. In an online space, people like to come together to connect with others who are like them. This is where a networking community comes in; focused on connecting one person to another for a specific purpose. Business networking is one type of networking community, where members look to connect with other like-minded people in their industry or profession.

5. Social communities

A social community is about providing people and communities, who have a shared purpose or interest, with an opportunity to come together to discuss whatever they want to socialise.

6. Fan communities

Fan communities are built around / on a shared enjoyment of an aspect of popular culture. For example, it’s common for fan communities to form around books, films, musicians, YouTuber’s or other media, with these communities closely following and staying up to date on relevant news.

Whilst you could make an argument that each type of online community plays an important role in motivating people to be physically active, there are 3 that are particularly relevant in supporting less active people to be physically active:

  • Support communities
  • Network communities
  • Social communities

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