How to Choose the ‘Fitfluencers’ to Follow, and the Ones to Avoid (The New York Times)

Posted: May 09, 2023 in In the News

This article originally appeared in The New York Times on May 11, 2023.


How to Choose the ‘Fitfluencers’ to Follow, and the Ones to Avoid

By Danielle Friedman

According to some estimates, Instagram is home to around 50,000 fitness influencers, most claiming to have the secrets to a healthy lifestyle. While some share science-backed helpful tips, others promote fitness advice that’s misguided at best and dangerous at worst.

In a new study, researchers found that nearly two-thirds of the 100 most popular “fitfluencers” — a term that can describe any influencer who posts content related to fitness — lacked sound advice or posted messages that could negatively affect people’s mental and physical health by, say, promoting exercise as a tool to become skinnier.

“Much of what could be called ‘fitfluencer’ content is really just ‘thin-spiration’ in disguise,” said Renee Engeln, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University who studies how media influences body image and was not involved in the research.

Several previous studies have shown that exposure to images that encourage a specific physique is correlated with a dip in body satisfaction, mood and self-perceived sexual attractiveness. It has also been linked to disordered eating.

Being able to distinguish between health-promoting accounts and potentially harmful ones can be challenging, even for researchers, Dr. Engeln said.

“An influencer might post a useful tutorial on how to safely do squats,” she wrote in an email, “but then follow it up with content promoting ineffective (or even dangerous) weight loss supplements.”

So how can you find credible accounts? What should you look for when deciding which fitfluencers to follow? Here are four rules of thumb from experts.


You’re best off following professionals who have formally trained in the field you are interested in, said Cedric Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise.

“You can’t rely on the number of likes that a person has or number of followers as being an indicator of the quality of their advice,” he said.

Instead, look for references to their credentials and experience, whether it’s a master’s degree or a coaching certificate. Be wary of fitfluencers who offer advice outside their expertise, Dr. Bryant said, particularly regarding diet and nutrition.


Even if a person has fitness credentials, if they don’t also have proper training in nutrition, I would tread carefully,” he said. “Make sure they’re staying in their lane.”


Read the full article here.

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