Comment: Fitness influencers are harmful sources

Editor’s note: This is a guest comment. Opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial board.

In today’s social media landscape, it’s possible for anyone to become a fitness influencer. However, this status does not require years of education in exercise science or nutrition; becoming a fitness influencer doesn’t even require a personal trainer certification. So how are these influencers qualified to provide health and fitness information? The simple answer is that many of them are not. There are those who have education and knowledge and spreade correct information for their followers. However, a large number are doing more harm than good to the fitness industry.

My whole life I have struggled in my relationship with exercise and food until about three years ago when I started lifting weights and finally found a healthy balance. Despite the progress I’ve made, sometimes I’ll scroll to a video that takes me back to my middle school self, sitting in my bedroom, overanalyzing my appearance in the mirror, googling “how to lose weight overnight” and going to bed hoping to woke up in a different body. Then I thought something was wrong with me because I was following information from fitness influencers but I never saw any changes.

Before I trained in fitness and started lifting weights, I was constantly trying to exercise because I wanted to lose weight. I would do random workouts I saw on the internet without really knowing if they were the best way to achieve my goals or not. At this point, I didn’t have a lot of knowledge about health and fitness and I got frustrated with the lack of progress I was making, which always made me give up.

To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. It’s a simple conceptT but not what people want to hear because it’s not necessarily easy. Before I knew how weight loss worked, I believed influencers whose videos promised weight loss after just 10 minutes of exercise. Even though it doesn’t logically make sense that just 10 minutes of exercise will make significant changes to your body, I did it anyway because I wanted to believe it was true.

The processes of fat loss and muscle building I take time and consistency and there is no magic exercise or food that will change that. However, many fitness influencers claim to have found ways to hack health and fitness, which is misleading for people starting their fitness journeys as well as damaging to mental health.

Chloe Ting is a prime example of how misleading fitness influencers can be. With over 24 million subscribers on YouTube, 2.8 million on Instagram and over 600k on TikTok, Ting is one of the biggest fitness influencers of all time. Ting has been creating content for many years, but her popularity skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic when gyms were closed and people were training at home. While the content of Ting’s workouts is fine, the problem lies in the titles of her videos. If you look at Ting’s YouTube channel, you’ll see videos like “Do this full body workout to get SHREDDED – No planks, No equipment” and “Get a flat stomach and abs — 10 min.” What these videos advertise is not physically possible. On the one hand, there is no way to reduce fat on the spot, and it is extremely difficult to reduce it by only doing bodyweight training; if you choose another chloe ting video, the title most likely contains similar lies.

I believe that any form of exercise that makes you happy and you can do consistently is worth it. However, when fitness influencers promote unrealistic goals and spread false information, it leads people to believe that a healthy lifestyle is too difficult or even impossible to achieve. This can contribute to problems such as body dysmorphia, anxiety and depression. I think it’s amazing that exposure to fitness content has motivated people to pursue healthier lifestyles; I just urge that before people follow the advice of others on the internet, they do their own research to make sure the source is qualified and that the information is accurate.

Julia Scott (she/her) is a Senior Integrated Marketing Communications Specialist. Contact her at [email protected].

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