Fitness influencers are often motivational, aspirational, and—let’s be honest—pretty darn attractive. But it’s not always the best idea to follow their advice without first engaging in some little healthy scrutiny. “There’s too much information out there that nobody’s fact checking,” says Katrina Pilkington, a personal trainer certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). “You have to be your own fact checker.”
Doing background research to vet the content shared by fitness influencers might suck the fun out of following them, but it’s important for your health if you plan to follow their advice. After all, people aren’t qualified trainers just because they’ve got your dream body. “Looks aren’t everything,” says Pilkington. “Someone could have a six-pack and a heart problem.” They also might not be 100 percent transparent around what they’ve done to get their physique. Think of it this way: Jennifer Aniston has done commercials for Aveeno and Smartwater, but you don’t assume that her entire beauty routine consists of drinking water and applying lotion, right? Apply that same critical thinking to fitfluencers, and take a few beats before copycatting their moves.
How to vet advice shared by the fitness influencers you follow
1. Check their credentials
The easiest thing you can do is check the influencer’s credentials. Pilkington says to see if someone has a master’s degree relevant to the advice they’re sharing. “I’m not saying it completely validates them, but it can be a little more of a credential because it means they’ve had continuing education in their field,” she says. NASM-certified trainer Tony Ambler-Wright—who has a master’s degree in exercise science—refers to this as “foundational knowledge” and also advises keeping an eye out for it.
You might also want to take a look at trainers’ professional certifications. Ambler-Wright says he’s biased towards his own (NASM) type of certification, but he also recommends trainers who are certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association, American Council on Exercise, or the American College for Sports Medicine.
If someone you follow fails to possess any of the above credentials, says Ambler-Wright, that could be a red flag.
2. Make sure their advice from fitness influencers matches their training
Both Pilkington and Ambler-Wright also note that just because someone is credentialed in one area doesn’t mean you should follow their advice in other disciplines. “The person’s training should align with the advice that they’re providing,” says Ambler-Wright. “One of the things that I think consumers should be wary of is individuals operating outside the scope of their expertise.”
For example, don’t look to a fitness influencer or certified trainer for credible diet advice unless they have additional credentials as a nutritionist or registered dietician. “The nutrition piece is not something that a [non-credentialed] trainer should be touching,” says Pilkington. “They shouldn’t be recommending what you eat or how much you eat, because that’s just completely out of their scope and authority.” And while she admits she may have been guilty of doling out