Causality, Correlation or Just Coincidence

I made a social media post this week on this subject and, safe to say, my inbox was nearly at melting point!

Rather than answer those messages and emails individually, I’m using this to a little more elaboration on what I meant by representing yourself with integrity in the health and fitness world.


For those who didn’t see it, the text from the Instagram post was this:

Causation, correlation or coincidence?  Three things often misunderstood in the health and fitness world.

In explaining this I often use the example of professional basketball, it would be factually correct to say there is a large population of men over 6’4 playing in the NBA.  It would be factually incorrect (and a little ridiculous) to say that playing in the NBA makes you become a 6’4 plus man

There is a ‘correlation’ between being tall, and being good at basketball. But playing basketball does not make you tall.  Being tall also does not make you good at basketball – but it may encourage you to try it because there are lots of people like you who play – and there’s a chance you might be good at it

If I design a plan for elite cyclists to help them change gears more effectively, it did not give them stringer legs.  Although my group of elite cyclists almost certainly have string legs.

The same logic applies to health and fitness:  If a specific exercise choice is popular with a particular population that is a correlation, not a causation.

Whether you are a fitness consumer or a fitness professional, understanding the difference between the two is key.

As is representing them with integrity”

To elaborate on this a last part a little further,  if I invite a room full of tall slim females to click their fingers for 45 minutes, they are still tall slim females afterwards.  If they enjoyed it, and we all had fun, there’s no harm in that whatsoever.

Where the harm lies,  however, is if I were then to suggest that by clicking your fingers in my special way for 45 minutes you will become a tall slim female.

If we ask ourselves the question of who the tall slim female finger clicking plan may appeal to,  it is highly likely to be the group of people who are not one, but may aspire to become one.  If I am suggesting that my plan is the causation of becoming a tall slim female, and you follow my plan,  and you don’t become one, then my customer either sees through my BS (hopefully),  or starts to question what’s wrong with them,  why didn’t it work for them when it worked for everyone else, and a potentially very dangerous negative spiral begins

The finger clicking routine may be a slightly facetious example,   but replace that with ‘fat burning mini bands’,  squeezing a ball between your thighs, or lifting weights that weigh less than your wristwatch and we pretty much get to the same place.  Again I have no issue at all with marketing your exercise program to a specific audience,  or to the community created by exercising alongside people similar to yourself.  As professionals, however,  we have a responsibility to be honest about what we are causing, what is a correlation and what is simply a coincidence.

Don’t be Homer,  but even worse, don’t be Lisa



2020-01-19T11:22:17+00:00January 19th, 2020|0 Comments

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