If surviving the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that our health should be prioritised. Social media has made it easier for people to navigate the disruptions spurred on by the pandemic, no more so than in the area of fitness.
When the majority of us were forced to stay home without access to gyms, the fitness landscape and the way we exercise changed. Although we are now heading towards a more “normal” lifestyle, these changes provided the perfect climate for a range of voices, opinions and fitness trends to flourish. While some of these come from qualified people offering well-researched advice, others are less than helpful – many are fads, often the unsound advice of an unqualified influencer and in some cases, just plain dangerous.
How to be scroll savvy
So what should we be looking out for next time we tap or scroll on our socials? Which sites should we take seriously and which deserve a large pinch of salt?
Fitspiration: 74.8 million posts on Instagram bear the hashtag #Fitspo (a combination of the words “fitness and “inspiration”) and are usually accompanied by images of picture-perfect celebrities, athletes and lifestyle gurus providing health-related tips and content. It seems, on closer inspection, that the “#Fitspo site is consumed with the ideal of ‘thinness’ in women and ‘muscularity’ in men and certainly does not promote an ideal of the average person working towards their own health goals.
Clean eating: There’s nothing inherently wrong with it. But there’s also growing concern among dieticians about ‘orthorexia nervosa’ – an eating disorder that involves an unhealthy obsession with eating only what is perceived as ‘healthy’ foods. Research found that orthorexia doesn’t carry the same stigma as other eating disorders, so it’s quite easy for it to hide in plain sight. If left unchecked, what starts as a genuine desire to be healthy could increase a person’s risk of developing symptoms of this disorder. This includes anxiety over eating food that is not ‘clean’ leaving out entire food groups, and refusing to eat food that you haven’t prepared yourself.
Fitness apps: Gone are the days when a simple run or workout was enough exercise. Social media is now flooded with thousands of fitness apps that count your steps or your calories and many of us have been tempted to
downloaded at least one app that will help us exercise or lose weight. Before you pin your hope on a new app, keep in mind that the people who develop the apps seldom have a background in psychology or health. So while some might be useful, others might be an unnecessary expense – think twice before you ‘proceed to checkout’.