Do you get ‘fitspo’ on social media? This is what to look out for

Fitness entrepreneur Jen Selter, 24, who has 11.5 million Instagram followers.

Fitness entrepreneur Jen Selter, 24, who has 11.5 million Instagram followers. Photo: Instagram/jenselter

It’s that time of year when ‘bikini body’ images and ‘get fit for summer’ promises seem to infiltrate your entire life – the supermarket checkout mag stand, your gym, your friendship circles and especially your social media feeds.

There’s no doubt this so-called ‘fitness inspiration’ (or fitspo) from your favourite fitness gurus can be motivating and encourage you to achieve a healthier version of you.

Or, perhaps the flood of washboard bodies is a complete turn-off to exercise.

After all, the often-unrealistic images of what ‘you too can achieve’ with the right program, shake, diet or training method can leave you feeling inadequate or disappointed with your actual ability and progress.

Australian fitness blogger Kayla Itsines, 26, who has 8.2 million Instagram followers and turned over almost $5 million in 2017, according to Business Insider.

Dale Ischia, accredited exercise physiologist at Moving Beyond Cancer, said whether you’re a fan of fitspo on social media or not, being healthy should be the ultimate goal for everybody.

“We all know the health benefits of exercise – reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, joint pain and improved mental health to name a few,” she told The New Daily.

“But, many of us are motivated by our appearance. Having a healthy body image is important, but we should focus on what our body can do, not what it looks like.”

The sticking point with fitspo for many people is that it seems to encourage a sense of comparison, Ischia said.

“There is no point me, a woman in my 40s with three kids, comparing myself with these girls with washboard stomachs in their 20s that I see on social media. But, I can do the 1000 steps track, three times over and still pick the kids up from school, cook dinner and do the housework!”

Kimberley Barletta, a yoga teacher with a growing social following @kimmybfit agreed, saying it’s best to only follow people whose posts uplift and inspire you, not someone who you feel inclined to compare yourself to.

Yoga teacher Kimberley Barletta

It’s also important to understand the fitness expert’s qualifications before taking any of their advice on social media literally, added Barletta, who completed her yoga teacher training in 2015.

A exercise physiologist, for example, will prescribe fitness advice or a program once they consider things like your pelvic floor strength, whether you’ve had any abdominal separation or back pain, eating disorders or a mental illness.

Plus, how your feet and knees align when you perform a squat, whether your core is strong enough to do a full length push up, if you’ve ever had shoulder impingement or a tendency to hold your breath when you exert yourself.

Australian fitness identity Ashy Bines has 933,000 Instagram followers

Furthermore, understanding your cardiovascular response to exercise is vital so that they can guide you towards exercise that will push you – but not send you into an anaerobic meltdown.

“When giving general advice on social media, it is impossible to know whom your audience really is, what issues they are experiencing and how they are going to interpret your advice,” Ischia said.

Instead, she suggested asking these questions:

  • What are their qualifications?
  • Are they accredited?
  • Where are they sourcing their information?
  • Is there scientific evidence to support their claims?
  • Who are they targeting their program to?
  • Do you fit their profile?

If you can answer all of these questions, embrace the motivation and enjoy the process towards improving your physical and mental fitness. If not, be safe and remember stay true to your personal fitness pursuits, not anyone else’s perception of what being fit should look or feel like.

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