While the concept of a fitness influencer isn’t new—with workouts often shared on DVD at the time instead of YouTube—social media has boosted the genre.
From people simply sharing their weight loss journey to offering personal training via Instagram, there are a whole host of exercise-related content creators out there.
A study by OriGym found that six out of ten Britons get their diet and exercise advice online. While YouTube was the most popular sharing platform for people seeking fitness advice, Tiktok leads the way for Gen Z – nearly three in five admit to getting nutrition advice from the app.
This is no surprise considering Tiktok boasts just under 200 billion exercise-related videos.
According to Farren Morgan, a serving British soldier, coach and tactical trainer, fitness influencers are useful because they ‘promote a healthy lifestyle’.
“They can show what can be achieved if you get enough sleep, choose to exercise regularly and eat healthy,” he tells Metro.co.uk.
However, like many other aspects of the internet, social media is a breeding ground for exaggeration, misinformation and distortion of actual reality.
When it comes to topics like health and fitness, ensuring accuracy in what you’re advising is key – and hard to follow on social media.
When it comes to younger generations turning to Tiktok for advice, it can sometimes lead to harmful circumstances.
While many fitness social media accounts have expertise in the field and promote a balanced lifestyle, the same cannot be said for others.
‘There are two types of fitness influencers,’ says Farren. ‘The first promotes a healthy lifestyle designed to keep you happy and fulfilled through a healthy diet of whole foods [and] encouraging others to live a balanced life around their work, fitness, while having time for family and loved ones.’
‘Others advocate exercise that is dangerous – or even fatal to your health – and tend to have attitudes that insist you have to look fit/torn all year round to actually be healthy.’
This can ultimately have negative consequences for those who consume this information – it is simply not sustainable for most of society and ultimately results in negative outcomes for people’s mental and physical health.
One of the fitness trends on Instagram is the ‘what I eat for a day’ videos. Then the content creator will share their meals for the day, usually followed by a calorie count.
Danny Ly, a functional medicine practitioner and personal trainer, says it’s ‘very worrying’ to see so many of these videos on social media.
‘More often than not, these content creators are extremely lean and eat very little calories,’ Danny tells Metro.co.uk.
‘[This can] suggest that others eat the same so that they can look like them – not only is this very dangerous as it can cause nutritional deficiencies, but it can also cause problems related to body dysmorphia.
‘It’s impossible to look like someone just by eating like them.’
Danny also expresses concern about whether some of these fitness influencers are qualified enough to safely provide information to so many people.
“Sometimes these fitness influencers aren’t even qualified to give the advice they do,” he says. ‘For example, kettlebell swings and squats are often performed incorrectly which can cause back injuries, but thousands of us watch them.’
Katie Rowe-Ham, fitness expert and trainer also talks about the importance of clear, professional advice when it comes to training.
“Damage can occur if the trainer doesn’t explain the appropriateness of the sessions to the audience,” she says.
‘If people use weights [in their workout videos] then it’s really important to have the correct form and explain their exercise.’
Of course, it’s nice to see healthy lifestyles being promoted, but it’s important to understand that this is something very unique to each individual.
“I think there needs to be more regulation of what content creators can put on social media,” says Danny.
‘When you see influencers posting dietary restrictions and sharing general exercise regimes, it’s best to take this advice with a grain of salt.’
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