Sol Gilbert, owner of Underground Gym and spokesperson for Tanita, takes a closer look at the #fitspiration trend and what it means for health and fitness in the age of social media.

2017 was the year of #strongnotskinny: every A to D-list celebrity was suddenly posting their workout routine online, athleisure sales sky-rocketed and suddenly it was cool to take an interest in your health. In fact, studies show that students now prefer working out to partying.

The fact that more people are trying to adopt healthy lifestyles and look after their bodies is without a doubt a step in the right direction, especially at a time when record obesity rates are leading to a global health crisis. However, the meteoric rise of fitness bloggers has brought with its own set of problems, ones which we as an industry must address.

Fact or fad?

First and foremost, we need to recognise that these bloggers have unprecedented levels of influence, not just in their own country, but all over the world. The top ten fitness bloggers on Instagram have a combined following of almost 40 million and Kayla Itsines, the reigning queen of Insta-workouts, made over $46m last year alone. Yet, worryingly, the vast majority have little to no training or qualifications. Anyone with internet access now has a platform to advise and instruct and the methods they are advocating are often based on a severe lack of scientific evidence.

At best this can mean a person fails to achieve the expected results in a given time (which can in turn impact on their body confidence), and at worst it can lead to long-term damage if an individual practises incorrect techniques or certain diet programmes ill-suited for their body.

As a gym professional, I’m all too aware that a one-size-fits-all approach to fitness is never a good idea. With the help of technology such as Tanita’s body composition scales, we’re able to identify what a client’s body might need and or not need and build a programme to suit that. It goes without saying that everyone’s body is different and it’s time for us as an industry to look for a fresh approach to how we work around a client’s individual needs, steering them clear of faddish fitness trends.

Health is not just skin-deep

What’s more, these beautifully sculpted Instagrammers are once again tapping into that same vulnerable audience that previously had starved themselves during the era of size zero – young people with a lack of body confidence. Though #strongnotskinny to extent promotes a healthy body image for many young people, in that it encourages them to lose fat and build muscle, we must question the ways in which it can be harmful.

Once again, these influencers are setting impossibly high standards for young people to aspire to; #bodygoals that are unrealistic and all too easy to fall short of. We need to remind young people that a picture of a toned body with glowing skin has been carefully put together using the perfect light and at the perfect angle, and does not show the full picture of their actual health or fitness.

Ultimately, the problem with #fitspiration is that the goal it promotes is one that is entirely superficial. We must recognise that the ever-popular ‘before/after’ shot is no longer credible as a reliable picture of someone’s overall health. The fitness industry is now responding to this need to look beyond someone’s external appearance with technological advances designed to give a better and more accurate representation of health. Body composition monitors, such as Tanita’s BDE machines, are now beginning to replace out-dated BMI systems of measuring an individual’s internal health, tracking over twelve indicators of body composition, including muscle mass, visceral fat and BMR.

Currently, these advances in technology are not being matched by an understanding within the industry of how best to use body composition analysis equipment to the advantage of both clients and gyms.

To meet this shortage, Tanita will soon be launching the UK’s first Tanita Training Academy in an effort to improve the fitness industry’s understanding of body composition and how it can be better used for building a more bespoke and holistic experience for clients. The course is CPD accredited and has been developed to give gym professionals a better understanding how body composition works, so they are able adapt programmes on a client-by-client basis. The Tanita Training Academy will be held on 26th September in London and the 24th October in Edinburgh, with registration open now.

To learn more and sign up for your place on the Tanita Training Academy by clicking here: Sign up