Jürg Widmer Probst - fitness influencers

Be careful how you choose fitness influencers to use as inspiration

Millions of people turn to online fitness influencers to help them get on track with diet and exercise. But on every platform, from Instagram to TikTok, there are many different kinds of fitness influencers.

For every knowledgeable fitness trainer or accomplished athlete, there is someone trying to sell a product. Not every fitness influencer is a professional worth listening to, so for anyone routinely checking out Instagram or YouTube for health and fitness advice, here are a few tips.

How do you find the best fitness influencers online?

The first thing you should look at is whether they are obviously trying to sell a specific range of products. While fitness influencers will rarely spell out that if people buy their product, they will automatically become fit and slim, it is usually heavily implied.

Any fitness expert worth listening to will have been practicing a healthy lifestyle long before they started to be an online influencer. And no-one with a very obviously toned or muscle-bound physique achieved it through buying a product. Fitness and health take discipline, hard work and dedication.

So, while it’s tempting to take a fitness influencer’s impressively lean body on face value and hope that you can get the same by buying their diet shake, deep down you know this isn’t true.

Some fitness experts online are anything but

Just as being bombarded with pictures of someone with the perfect lean physique can leave you hoping for a miracle, the same applies with fitness influencers who show off big muscle gains.

It is worth remembering that steroid use is common among competitive athletes in certain sports. And of course, there are many fitness influencers who are not bound by competition rules as they aren’t competing at all. They can achieve muscles in any way they want and present something else as the truth online.

Perhaps the best advice would be: ‘don’t believe everything you see’. Fitness influencers have a strong vested interest in appearing to show subscribers and fans a beautiful, perfect body. Their next aim is to convince people that they too can look like this if they just sign up for this expensive exercise regime and protein shake.

Photoshop also comes into play here. These days, photo editing is so accessible and easy to do that pretty much everyone has some kind of filter on their pictures. And for those making money from fitness accounts, the added impetus on appearing perfect is clear. Many fitness influencers routinely use FaceTune, Photoshop or any other software to make themselves look leaner, more built or curvier, depending on what they’re selling.

How to choose a worthwhile fitness influencer

 Given the pitfalls of online fitness influencers outlined above, here are some tips to help you choose one that’s worth following. Finding a fitness influencer or expert to follow is a useful way of keeping motivation levels up and can help you reach your goal.

  1. Are they accredited by any official body?

Look beyond their pictures to find out whether they are actually an accredited trainer or nutritionist. Steer away from anyone clearly selling any kind of multi-level marketing (MLM) product and look instead for fitness influencers who are backed with some kind of certification.

Not every professional fitness instructor will come with formal credentials, but you should easily be able to find evidence of past clients or success stories. Google the name of the influencer and find out about their background and experience before you decide to follow their advice.

  1. Are they a nutritionist?

Most fitness influencers include diet in their advice and instruction. Exercise and nutrition are not the same, and they require different levels of expertise. Don’t just follow an influencer who purports to have the answers without finding out whether they are a registered dietician first.

Remember that anyone can say they’re a nutritionist as in many countries there is no legal definition of the term. However, registered dieticians have provable expertise, years of training and something useful to say.

  1. Is their message consistent?

Beware of any influencer who chops and changes their fitness and nutrition advice. If they constantly offer different products or all of their posts are sponsored, then skip them. Like most aspects of health and fitness, there is no easy answer but there is a simple one.

If you want to lose weight you must eat less. If you want to increase muscle, you need to lift weights. If you want to become an athlete or seriously improve your fitness, you must stick at it. This kind of consistent advice and instruction is what you need to make true changes to your health and fitness.

Worthwhile fitness influencers on Instagram or any other platform aren’t afraid to push this message of consistency. They will include it in their instruction, rather than offering a product that promises to be the answer. Look for those who share success stories with before and after pictures, or proof of how they improved over the years.