Fitness influencers are a dime a dozen these days. The problem, however, is that the lack of regulation on social media means anyone can offer fitness advice. Because of this, there is a lot of misinformation circulating that can be potentially harmful.
A recent study of fitness content on Tiktok found that 27 percent of the videos analyzed contained incorrect posture or incorrect instructions. The most common kettlebell exercises were wrongly done – 80 percent of the time. However, if you are not an expert yourself, you will probably not notice this.
Just because someone has a large following and is a professional poseur doesn’t mean he or she is qualified to provide advice. Personal trainer Liam Cavanagh explained this in an interview with NewsABC.net. Cavanagh is the founder of Bel, a website that connects people looking for online fitness coaches with qualified personal trainers. These have been checked and verified beforehand and help interested parties to achieve their specific goals.
The Londoner came up with the idea of Bel out of frustration that so many unqualified influencers give other people advice on training and nutrition and often benefit from it.
“So many people are looking for an online coach on Instagram. But their search results are based on who they follow, which accounts they interact with, and who follows them. The search doesn’t take into account which of these coaches actually have relevant experience, ”he said. “It is always taken into account how many followers and likes someone has on their profile. But neither are indicators of good online coaching. “
As an example, Cavanagh cites people who appear on reality TV shows and thereby build a huge following and then start selling fitness programs. They have no qualifications or coaching experience. Similarly, many excellent personal trainers have a relatively modest following on social media.
There are certainly many good and qualified fitness experts on social media that you can trust. But before you next take advice from your favorite fitness influencer, you should watch out for the following warning signs.
1. Superficial instead of educational content
A personal trainer who really cares about helping others and providing correct information will not predominantly flaunt his or her body on their Instagram feed. Cavanagh suggests that you first look at the content that a fitness influencer publishes and ask yourself: “Are they instructive and can I take something with me from them, or are they rather vain and mainly exhibit highlights on display in their own lives? “
2. You mainly post product promotions
There is nothing wrong with sponsored content and paid advertising on social media – after all, full-time influencers also have to pay their bills. But it is worth paying attention to how much product advertising an influencer makes on the profile and what type of products are being advertised. For example, “skinny detox tea” can be a warning sign in itself.
Another warning sign, according to Cavanagh, is when an influencer’s profile is full of the following sentences: “You should buy this product, I have a promo code for it.” Cavanagh advises, “Watch out for people who only work for products advertise instead of actually giving fitness-related advice. “
3. Lack of qualifications and experience
Not having qualifications is a “big problem,” said Cavanagh. Just because someone didn’t include references in their bio doesn’t mean they aren’t qualified. If you are unsure, you should definitely ask. Cavanagh notes that the entry barrier for a personal trainer is “relatively low”, which is why you should ask directly for experience. And don’t be fooled by the choice of words – anyone can call themselves “trainer”. In many cases, however, that means little.
4. An “either my way or not at all” approach
Good trainers know that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for health and fitness. So when an influencer insists that everyone has to do exactly what they are showing, that is a strong warning signal. After all, just because it worked for them doesn’t mean it works the same way for others. “There are many different ways to get there,” says Cavanagh. “The role of a coach should be to find the methods that work for a person and to work on them together with them.”
It’s important to keep reminding yourself that even if you eat and exercise exactly like your favorite fitness influencers, you still wouldn’t look like them. Quite simply because genetics also play a major role. It is also often the reason why some influencers built their huge fan base in the first place.
5. Exclusive focus on short term transformations
“Before and after” images can be very convincing. In fact, they are highly problematic and should never be interpreted in such a way that a trainer understands the craft. First, they may only share the transformations of a small fraction of their customers. Second, short-term body changes shouldn’t really be the goal – coaches should help you make permanent changes.
Some coaches specialize in aesthetic changes and it is of course up to you if this is your only goal. But what you really should be looking for are trainers who focus on your overall health. For this reason, Cavanagh suggests looking for testimonials from current or previous customers. And don’t be afraid to ask about it.
Instagram and Tiktok did not immediately respond to NewsABC.net’s request for comment.
This article was translated from English and edited by Ilona Tomić. You can read the original here.