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SparkPeople: A Review from the Fitness Perspective

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 6/29/2011

SparkPeople.com is an online weight loss community and journal. While the site has received a great deal of attention for its food journal, and recipe analyzer, the SparkPeople.com’s myFitness deserves notice of its own.

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    SparkPeople

    SparkPeople.com is a free online weight loss journal. Using the SparkPeople.com website, you can log in daily to track meals, weight gain, or loss, and keep track of the exercise you do. As an added bonus, SparkPeople.com includes a diet and exercise plan based on your age, current weight, and weight loss goals.

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    Advantages

    - SparkPeople.com has a companion site (Sparkrecipes.com) that has thousands of user-contributed recipes with nutritional analysis and a free calorie analyzer for your recipes.

    - SparkPeople.com is a free weight loss tool. All features are free.

    - It does not try to entice you to buy anything.

    - It features an online community in addition to its diet and exercise log capabilities.

    - Members are encouraged to become involved in groups and to communicate with other members.

    - There are diagnostic tools, such as to determine your basal metabolic rate (BMR).

    - You can track additional goals, such as the amount of water you drank or the number of vegetables you ate.

    - It has a gaming element in that you are awarded points for logging your food consumption and exercise times.

    - The exercise element of the program, called “myFitness” includes daily calorie goals for exercise.

    - You can log exercise by specific actions (e.g. two-part pushups).

    - The myFitness program includes pre-set workouts and demo videos of many different strength-based exercises.

    - SparkPeople will even send you an email to remind you to exercise.

    - You can access a variety of reports to monitor your exercise, such as your calorie differential (consumed versus expended), nutrition, calories burned through exercise, calories burned through only cardio or only strength training, and the total time spent in exercise over a period of time.

    - The SparkPeople site does feature an element that allows users to ask a physician a question.

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    Disadvantages

    - The website can be difficult to navigate.

    - The associated recipe site (Sparkrecipes.com) is not integrated with the food journal on Sparkpeople.com.

    - Sparkrecipes, while the recipes are peer-reviewed, it would be nice if some of the recipes were “SparkPeople” reviewed, such as the way that many recipe sites are. They include some user-contributed recipes and some staff contributed recipes.

    - There is little variety when selecting an exercise. For example, all “yoga” is lumped into one category.

    - It takes a great deal of time to log everything in (food, exercise, water) the way the system is set up.

    - The community aspect may be too much for some people.

    - Even if you are interested in the community element, there are so many forums and so many variations that it can be easy to skip past one you would have found helpful.

    - There are so many features that it may be too much for someone that just wants to keep track of his weight loss.

    - SparkPeople also provides so much information that taking it all in can be time-consuming.

    - SparkPeople has an emphasis on a higher-protein diet that may not work for everyone.

    - The exercises on SparkPeople may not be appropriate for the severely obese.

    - While the site provides a way to ask a physician a question, it does not offer a way to ask a personal trainer a question.

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    Resource

    1. sparkpeople.com