Is the Health and Fitness Industry damaging people’s Body Image?

RANT ALERT! RANT ALERT! – if you are a naked-abs-selfie-fitness professional- lover, prepare to maybe be either offended or abs-selfies-why-196887-600x400enlightened. (Hopefully the later 😉 ).

Body image continues to be a battle amongst many women and men. According to The British Dictionary, Body Image can be defined as ‘The subjective concept of one’s physical appearance based on self-observation and reactions of others’.  

Predominantly working with women and also being one myself, I feel very strongly about the influence of the health and fitness industry has on women particularly. We  who work in the industry are suppose to be helping people and guiding the public into living a healthier life. That should always be our aim and therefore everything we do, write or promote should inspire, encourage and support this notion.

Increasingly I have become frustrated with the fitness Industry’s activity on social media, particularly Instagram. I feel that overall the industry has succumbed to how the rest of the media operates. If you glance at the the top Instagram accounts, (meaning most followers…..), of health and fitness professionals, you will predominantly find a catalogue of ‘selfies’ and videos in various places displaying an array of their own, largely naked, body parts which have all been ‘perfectly’ toned. Sometimes you are even luckier to see ‘before’ and ‘after’ images of clients who have dramatically sculpted their body in just 6 weeks! (Please note the sarcasm).

I am of course exaggerating to make the point and there are some fantastic and truly encouraging Instagram accounts from fitness professionals (my fav’s are listed at the bottom!). I fully appreciate that some aspects of our industry, like bodybuilding and bikini modelling, the essence of their sport is about aesthetics. I understand that for aspiring competitors seeing pictures of these people can be useful. I also find the videos demonstrating technique or creative exercises really positive (providing they have a reasonable amount of clothes on!).

However, what I am concerned about is this self indulgence or self gratification of ‘look at me, look at my amazing body’. It is actually on the whole, not a positive contribution to the lives or body images of our followers. We are actually making it harder for them to feel positive about their own body. We are fuelling the damaging side effect of social media, particularly Instagram, is having on women of all ages.

Although research into the effect of Social Media and the human psyche is in its infancy, the early findings and trends which have been found are incredibly disturbing. The rise of social media sites such as Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook, have been linked to increases in child and teenager depression, online self objectification and rises in low body confidence amongst women.

As fitness professionals we need to understand HOW we are influencing people. If we understand what truly supports and motivates our online community, I suspect on the whole our timelines would look very different.

I think its time to reflect and evaluate what in general we use our social media accounts for and take action together as community to make the health and fitness industry a positive influence on society.

Rant over, I can breathe now 🙂

These ladies Instagram accounts WILL inspire you and make you laugh now and again! Follow: bethsmith_bfit, thepilatespt, ucanyoga1

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