Social Media: The Double-Edged Sword of Fitness

Photo by Binyamin Mellish from Pexels

The fitness industry is an incredibly mixed bag. There is valuable information to help you on your fitness journey, but misleading information is floating on the internet also. Originally, subpar information was harder to come by outside of word of mouth. Fitness magazines, the primary method by which the public would gain fitness information, often had editors that would filter the poor information the best they could. However, times have changed. Information travels near lightspeed, and there is no editor to filter out some of the bad. If you have not picked up what I am inferring to, nor have you read the title somehow, I am referring to social media. Anyone can post anything about fitness. Most of it is unchecked but can be extremely harmful. It would be inaccurate to act like all the information on the internet is detrimental. There are many of us working to put positive and valuable advice out there, so here is a short discussion on why you as a reader need to be careful.

The fitness side of social media is full of good and bad information. As I mentioned in other articles, good advice in fitness is almost homogenized. There is very little new information available to the public. Much of it is the same information that is recycled. However, that does not mean there is no novel information for you. I can guarantee that not many people know about myo-reps or the thermic effect of food, so while there is not much new, there is less-known information. There are plenty of individuals who want to show the world that they have discovered something. I will categorize this into three buckets: the first is information that unnecessarily complicates health and fitness and maybe more dangerous. The second is misleading information to sell a product or service. The second reason can be actively harmful or give out false promises. The third is outright inaccurate information that some people should know better but push anyway for whatever reason. They do it possibly for popularity. Maybe they have found personal success in it without disclosing all the components of their journey.

Let us examine the first reason. While this can be potentially dangerous, it might be the most altruistic reason out of the three. It is not much wrong with wanting to be the one who discovers something new that will change the course of an industry. The problem is when your desire to be the one to change the industry is so great that you give out dangerous information. One such situation is when you reference your blog posts to justify a principle you created, while research directly goes against what you are saying. Essentially, what this does is indirectly use appeal to authority fallacy. Regardless, this is not the worst reason. As a former researcher (for my degree), it can be frustrating to discover nothing. It takes a good deal to put your ambition aside to present accurate information.

The second reason is the more malicious of the three. I have gone into this in other articles, so this will be brief. It can be incredibly harmful to present inaccurate information to sell a product or service. More often than not, they are scams. There are well-known stories of this happening. Such as the Brittany Dawn situation or the countless under-qualified trainers promising to give results that may not be possible. It is not always malicious, to be fair. Sometimes people overestimate their knowledge. I do not want to be the one to tell people not to give trainers a shot. After all, I was a fledgling trainer who needed someone to give me a chance. I would say: temper your expectations. And as I always say, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The third reason is the one that is the most frustrating. Whether someone is enhanced, underwent surgery, or has incredible genetics, the advice is not always good just because your favorite influencer looks good. Even I have fallen for this while attempting to help people reach the body they want. People are not always upfront about how they achieve something. And people want to be like the people who inspire them. If someone who is buff gives tips on how they get so buff, as a result, people in their audience are likely to listen to them. The problem lies when that buff person does not know what they are talking about and gives advice anyway. This type of situation can be actively harmful.

There is a remotely common thread between the three of these. All three of these reasons depend on people looking up to them. The other side of this problem is that it comes from the people who look up to influencers and celebrities and compare themselves to them. In the fitness industry, how your body looks is worth more than dozens of degrees, certifications, years of experience, or anything else. If you look good, people will listen to whatever you have to say. People will compare themselves to the people who inspire them or guide them. That is where many problems lie. If you compare yourself to someone else, you might try to do what they do. It will make it easier to mislead if you try to be someone else. The line between being inspired by someone and trying to be them is thin. If you try to be inspired by them to be the best you can be rather than be like them, you may be able to resist being misled.

Now you may be wondering why I have not covered the ever silly fitness hacks that litter the internet. Well, that answer is quite simple. You should know better. As much as we would love fitness hacks to make a difference, they do not. Half of them are so tiny that they might as well not exist, and the other half do not work. Of course, there are small lifting hacks, such as the bulldog grip on the bench press to help with wrist stability.

There is good information available as well as dangerous information. Many fitness personalities put research-backed information out there for you to read. Like I mentioned before, much of it is not exciting, but it is available. Some advice comes from years of experience; other information comes from education, such as a university. Interestingly enough, most of this information comes from similar places. While one comes from a lab, the other comes from the job. Ultimately, the best information comes from both. Experience does not always understand why something happens, and formal education does not always answer every problem. No method is perfect. Some youtube channels I recommend for high-quality positive information include the following: Empire Barbell, Jeff Nippard, Geoffrey Schoenfield, Steve Shaw, Biolayne, FitnessFAQs, and Renaissance Periodization. Of course, there are many others, but these are some of my favorites.

Now, something you may immediately learn if you follow some of these channels is that some of them do not agree with each other. Empire Barbell particularly does not appreciate the academic side of the fitness industry. Does this mean his information is wrong? No. Does this mean the academic said it is wrong? No. As I mentioned, there is a happy medium between the scientific and tacit sides of fitness. Even if you value one more than the other, the other side has valuable information for you whether you realize it or not.

Social media can be beneficial or detrimental to your fitness journey. It is hard to tell what good or poor information is. If you can focus on being yourself and not comparing yourself to others, you may avoid much of the detrimental aspects of fitness social media. There is plenty of helpful information available, but just because it is out there, you may not have the tools to sift through it all. Hopefully, I was able to provide some help.



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Quentin Washington

Quentin Washington

I am an exercise physiologist and online fitness/nutrition coach. If you like what I write here, check out my website: