Instagram has been a breeding ground for “fitness influencers;” giving those inclined the opportunity to achieve social media fame and rapidly falsify the fitness industry. Fitness influencers have prospered since their fruition by selling workout plans and providing nutritional advice, building a personal brand and promoting their engagement and following. These accounts fail to focus on the importance of proper healthy living and leave the audience focused on their bodies, ultimately providing a dangerous ideal for young individuals to compare themselves to.

Whilst scrolling through Instagram, it is an incredibly popular occurrence to stumble upon fitness influencers. Those depicting a “perfect” and “healthy” lifestyle are often found posting images and reels of their fitness advice using catchy titles, such as “fastest way to get a bigger booty,” “get abs in five days”, and “before bed fat burners,” in efforts to promote their “well-balanced” lives. Social media users have become heavily reliant on influencers as their prime source of information, failing to properly research prior to beginning their fitness journey. 

According to a study produced at the University of Alberta, only 16.4% of fitness professionals studied withheld any certifications. The lack of reliability revolving around fitness influencers becomes harmful through the constant promotion of misinformation, ultimately delegitimizing the fitness industry as a whole. I hate to be the one to burst your bubble, but you cannot get “abs in five days.” These influencer-promoted shortcuts to health and fitness are some of the most far-fetched methods to living a healthy life I have ever seen. Such methods seem to be solely based upon the opportunity for influencers to grow their following and secure better brand deals. 

The imagery portrayed on such individuals’ profiles mainly consists of those exhibiting and displaying their famed physiques. Although, I wouldn’t believe everything you see on the internet. Many of these posts are often taken by professional photographers, heavily edited, or captured in ideal lighting to eliminate any outstanding imperfections. The “ideal” body for fitness influencers far and wide neglects representation for the “average” body most individuals possess. Fitness influencers fail to point out the impact of genetics, plastic surgery, and photoshop. The fitness influencer promotes an unrealistic standard that can have detrimental impacts on the mental health of their onlookers, threatening the positive environment they attempt to promote. 

By seeing such images repeatedly throughout our feeds, we begin to build an image of what the “ideal” body is. The imagery portrayed creates a toxic environment for those to develop an unnatural view of body image and strive to achieve an unattainable body goal.

Despite the popularity of female influencers within the industry, we often fail to account for the toxic masculinity consistently brought upon the male sector within the social media fitness environment. Fitness influencers such as Simeon Panda, Christian Guzman, and Chris Bumstead are often credited for creating a toxic environment for men. Panda, Guzman, and Bumstead are often seen flaunting their chiselled six-packs and defined biceps. This particular imagery creates a burden for men, setting unrealistic body standards that, in many cases, are produced through the use of harmful steroids and other potentially dangerous human growth enhancers. 

The patriarchy becomes a strong force that has resoundingly contributed to the societal image of a man. The foundation of masculinity heavily relies on one’s physical strength and size, developing a harmful dichotomy between the “Alpha Male” and the “average male.” The essence of the “Alpha Male,” or typical “gym bro,” becomes problematic when physical strength is depicted as the definition of masculinity and “sex appeal.”

However, don’t be fooled, the patriarchy proves to be a dominating force that in turn affects the “ideal” image of a woman as well. A woman that puts work into the gym and maintains a strong physique becomes a contrasting image of “femininity.” Women who possess strength are seen as masculine ultimately, defying the “ideal” image shaped through the influence of male domination. 

Through eliminating the toxicity that revolves around fitness culture, healthy living may become more achievable. By removing unhealthy imagery and misinformation, those who seek to attain a healthier lifestyle may become inspired to achieve more personalised goals that lack influence from overhyped content creators. To become more informed, seek research-based fitness advice from approved professionals to avoid false information and attempt to learn about your own body; find out your limitations and strengths to avoid any possible harm and to achieve your full potential. These particular aspects of health and fitness, often not discussed through social media platforms, have the potential to completely alter your idea of fitness culture. By considering these factors, one can develop a positive outlook on fitness instead of comparing oneself to the false realities that are “fitness influencers.”

HEADER IMAGE SOURCE: JASU HU

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