Most Fitness Influencers Are Doing More Harm Than Good (The New York Times)

Posted: May 10, 2023 in In the News

This article originally appeared in The New York Times on May 10, 2023.


Most Fitness Influencers Are Doing More Harm Than Good

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.


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.”



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