The Dark Side of Social Media Fitness Culture
Social media is a powerful tool, especially for the fitness world. Instagram offers the opportunity to keep yourself accountable on your fitness journey, a variety of workout options to fit your lifestyle, a chance to build a community for support, and more. There are countless fitness personalities on Instagram that offer daily or weekly workouts, diet tips, and of course, selfies of well-sculpted bodies with inspirational quotes or anecdotes looking to encourage others.
But the overwhelming exposure to such a vast assortment of fitness subculture through Instagram can have extremely negative effects on body image and even be dangerous to our health. What is the dark side to Instagram fitness programs? How do we keep ourselves from falling into the black hole of the perfect lifestyles that are portrayed by social media? Here are a few things to consider:
It’s natural to assume that someone who looks fit, toned, and thin is an expert in health and wellness. Plenty of Instagram fitness personalities, including Kayla Itsines with over 9 million followers, have managed to develop their own programs and turn their following into a substantial business. Kayla offers a variety of different programs, encourages participants to share their before and after stories, and has proven that her methods can deliver results.
One thing to remember, however, is that not every fitness personality is an expert. Someone sharing their fitness regime on their Instagram story is not a guarantee that they are aware of the safest and most effective ways for you to get healthy. Social media is saturated with so much fitness content that some of it, flat out, is not going to be good for everyone. Not everybody can handle high intensity workouts, restrictive diets, or lifting heavy weights- what your body needs and where you are on your health and wellness journey is unique to you.
The most important thing to remember is that most of the influencers offering health and fitness tips are offering just that- tips. They’re not guaranteed to show you the results you may be looking for, so be sure to put your own health first and avoid practices that could result in injury or other negative results.
No one can argue that these influencers and other social media personalities have good intentions in sharing their fitness tips and suggestions, and the countless comments from grateful people does show that lives have changed for the better. However, there is a lurking harmful underbelly to this culture that could be causing the positive message to be backfiring.
Despite the attempt at promoting self-love and body positivity, the fact remains that there is a huge disconnect between the images being posted and the inspirational quotes that accompany them. Many of these celebrities or fitness personalities will encourage you never to compare yourself to others including them, while displaying a photo of their washboard abs.
Consistent exposure to photos that are so perfectly posed suggesting programs that guarantee that same body in 6 weeks is causing participants to engage in habits that are far beyond the reaches of a healthy lifestyle. In attempts to obtain the “ideal” body type, or rather the photo they’re being shown that sets the bar higher than may be possible, users are actually hurting themselves. It can result in having a negative relationship with food, over-exercising, or injuries trying to gain the perfect Instagram body.
Additionally, making your fitness journey about before/after photos shifts your motivation to get healthy to your physical appearance, rather than internal health. You’ll end up finding yourself comparing your after photos to fellow participants wondering why your results weren’t the same, causing damage to your self-esteem.
Health Comes First
Of course, there are positives to the Instagram fitness influencers and what they offer to their audience. These plans and programs provide an outpour of support from fellow participants and are offered at a relatively lower cost than other fitness options. However, it’s important to remember that your emotional and physical health come first.
Not all of these influencers are qualified to hand out advice, so it’s important to take their tips with a grain of salt and be sure to run any new fitness or diet program by a professional first. Listen to your body, know your limitations, and most importantly don’t follow any accounts that cause you to feel bad about yourself. Social media shouldn’t become detrimental on your journey to overall better health and wellness- fill your exposure with positive messaging to prevent the development of dangerous habits.
Most importantly, remember that fitness and health are not about sweaty selfies, developing six-pack abs, or those before and after photos. It’s about finding the right habits you need to incorporate into your life that can allow you to become the best version of yourself!
For additional health and wellness tips, including 5 Ways to Make Living a Healthy Lifestyle Easier, be sure to check out our blog!
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