The health and fitness industry has blown up on recent years , and whilst getting more people to move who otherwise wouldn’t can only be a good thing (especially as we’re in the eye of the storm of a global health crisis), something that I’ve noticed more and more in an attempt to get heard above the noise is the emergence of numerous ‘methods’, quite often accompanied by an official sounding acronym and in some cases even with associated branded merchandise.
Every industry survives and thrives upon its appeal, and so repackaging tried and tested forms of exercise such as resistance training, aerobic training and circuit training or movement based practices such as yoga, pilates and dance to encourage more people to try them is great – so long as those who are doing the re packaging know and understand what is in the package!
Unfortunately, the health and fitness industry in the UK is entirely unregulated – and anyone with £1500 to spare can fill in some online forms and download a certificate.
With this enormous growth in the number of people offering advice, and much of it conflicting or contradictory, it has become increasingly difficult for the consumer to know who or what to listen to or to believe. Many fitness ‘professionals’ therefore have tried to differentiate themselves by being the one to sell the ‘secret’, that silver bullet or magic pill that will finally be the answer to their consumers problems. Unfortunately this is not the case – as much as the industry has grown; physiology and physics have remained constant, of course our understanding of them both evolves over time, but fundamentally the same principles have always applied, and always will apply. Meaning it doesn’t matter how many acronyms we add to the description, movement is still movement!
So what’s the problem with that?
Repackaging tried and tested methods to make them more appealing to different audiences is a wonderful thing. Getting more people to do things that are good for them is what our industry should be all about. However (and there was always going to be a however!), this only applies if what is in the package is of benefit!
So what if it’s not? What if that new routine that’s trending on Instagram is just a series of little movements ? Surely doing something is doing better than nothing right?
Well that is correct – moving in some way (with the caveat being that its safe) will always be better than not moving at all. And the ‘something is better than nothing’ argument has always been the defence of the fitfluencer.
That argument only stacks up, however, when both the fitness professional, and more importantly the fitness consumer are both on the same page that they are indeed doing ‘something’ to be better than doing ‘nothing’.
What is inherently harmful is the ‘something’ being presented as being the ‘Ultimate Answer’, an ‘Industry Secret’, or a ‘Revolutionary Technique’. As much as that may help an instagrammer drive engagement, or a media outlet generate clicks. What that is also doing is preying upon a willing and under-informed consumer, who has no way of knowing whether the source is credible, whether the trainer has any experience of working with real human beings (ideally real human beings just like the consumer and with similar goals to them), whether their qualifications are as a result of years of study backed up with practical experience, or whether they were given a certificate in return for an instagram post (yes this happens!).
Unfortunately, the proportion of the latter group is growing, and as the importance of exercise and movement as preventative medicine (quite rightly) becomes more widely known – the desire for health and fitness information is also growing.
But what happens when a person desperate for change stumbles across a fitfluencer offering them their Signature Method, that silver bullet for wellness that is in reality just a ‘something’, that’s better than a ‘nothing’….?
What happens is they try it – and of course it doesn’t do what they think it will do, or what it has been ‘sold’ as doing.
But who do we think the uninformed and often desperate consumer blames for it not working?
The fitflencer with the enormous following, the brand deal and the magazine column?
Or themselves, unhealthy and desperate for change?
They blame themselves of course, they give up, they compound their feelings of low self worth, their negative associations with exercise – and the very person that a growing industry should be trying to help and reach, is even further alienated from it.
Something is better than nothing – until its not.