The Harmful Impact of #Fitfluencing

CW: This article discusses topics of body image which could be distressing to some readers.



What is #Fitfluencing?


Jetting abroad, sitting in beer gardens, and sunbathing are things we all look forward to when summer is just around the corner. However, for many people, alongside this comes the pressure of getting into shape to fit that new sundress, or to get the perfect picture in that new bikini. As we scroll through our phones, we are bombarded with influencers showing off their bodies and putting it all down to their remarkable, fine-tuned healthy lifestyle. We are told we too can achieve our goals if we click 'follow'. This genre of influencing is often known as 'fitfluencing', whereby an influencer's content creation is solely based on fitness. The rise of fitness influencers has massively increased accessibility to free workout routines and healthy meal recipes. Without them, people would have to consistently fund gym memberships and splash out on fancy cookbooks.


Fitness influencing appears across a plethora of social media sites. There appears to be an ever-growing community of fitness influencers on TikTok and Instagram. Often, videos pop up with titles like ‘How to Get Defined Abs’ or ‘What to Eat to Stay Lean’. With all this information at the availability of a single touch, it can be difficult to ignore, and we may choose to incorporate this information into our own lives. It can be hard to know where to start when it comes to exercise or incorporating more of your 5-a-day into your diet. It may seem logical to take on board the advice from the first ‘fitfluencer’ you come across. However, how reliable is their advice?


Why is it Harmful?


Most fitness influencers do not have the appropriate training qualifications to be spreading information regarding exercise and nutrition. Copying a workout routine or following an influencer's diet plan may seem proactive because the results look promising, but without fitness influencers having the proper training, you may be putting yourself at risk. For example, if you are a beginner gym-goer and straight away follow a heavily weighted workout or an intense cardio session, it's unlikely that you will truly benefit from the workout. Similarly, we all require different amounts of food each day and strictly following what an influencer eats because they look how you want to look can be dangerous for your own body. Achieving suitable qualifications like becoming a personal trainer or a nutritionist takes time, money, and persistence. Not only is fitness influencing harmful to the consumer, but it also undermines the work of qualified experts.


Even if everyone started eating the same things and did the same amount of exercise for a whole year, we would not all look the same at the end of the year.

Often, the plans and routines given out by fitness influencers fail to acknowledge that everybody is different. Unfortunately, how one person got defined abs will not be the same as how the person next to them can achieve the same end goal. This can be disheartening and reduce an individual’s motivation to continue exercising or incorporate healthier meals into their diet. However, it is so important to remember that there are so many factors outside of how we move our body or what we eat that contribute to how we look. Genetics plays an enormous role in the determination of our body type. Despite this being something we cannot ever change, this is rarely acknowledged within fitness influencer culture.


The advice fitness influencers give is not realistic for the majority of their audience. I am sure I speak for many others when I say that fitting in a gym session, a Pilates class and 10 thousand steps all on the same day is extremely challenging. On top of this, many fitness influencers shop at health food supermarkets and consume expensive vitamin supplements. This is inaccessible and unattainable advice, yet it continues to be pushed by the algorithm onto our screens.


Creating Transparency

Having access to a breadth of workouts and recipes can be really handy and is a good place to start when entering the world of fitness. However, if you are looking to follow a fitness plan created by an influencer, try checking out their credentials. Achieving fitness related qualifications is a huge time commitment and shows their dedication and expertise in the topic! Some popular qualifications to look for are a level 3 certificate in personal training and an undergraduate degree in nutrition. You’ll most likely be able to find this information in their social media bios.


Finally, it is essential to remember that working out and eating healthily is their full-time job! Their income is generated from posting healthy food-shop hauls and devising new workout routines for their audience to try. It is impossible to compare our day-to-day life with someone whose whole working life is dedicated to fitness. Most importantly, focus on what feels best for your body, and take inspiration from those fitness influencers who are experienced and can safely help you reach your goals! H