One of the great advances of recent times has been the proliferation of the internet and the number of people able to use it.
There has never been a time in history when the lay person has so much access to information about every possible aspect of health, exercise and physical activity.
And yet as a nation we are predominantly unhealthy and inactive. Clearly simply knowing the “facts”, having instant access to knowledge about the health benefits of physical activity is not enough to drive behaviour.
Social media, advertising, live streaming carries messages about exercise and health into everyone’s’ life.
A casual non-scientific stroll through internet world has been most enlightening.
Too much information: The sheer volume of information out there is bewildering to say the least. No human can possibly absorb that much information. For the person contemplating becoming more active and taking up exercise there is just too much stuff available to help people make sensible choices
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The quality of information out there varies enormously from downright lies and nonsense to extremely good evidence based peer reviewed academic studies. So what is the lay person to make of this? How to be discerning regarding exercise and health advice?
Avoid! Individuals claiming to be experts who tell you only they have the solution. “You must do my HITT if you wanna get fit!” “This is the only workout that works!” “You have to eat this seaweed extract to lose weight” Er no…choose a sport or activity you are likely to enjoy and stick to it. Eat a sensible varied balanced diet. Move about more rather than sit around. Moderate intensity exercise done regularly confers amazing health benefits. Social media is now full of Vloggers and live streamers sharing their “wisdom”. Don’t get me wrong! Some of them are great but beware those who have something to sell. You don’t need to part with any cash to get active.
The other nonsense that seems to be proliferating are posts that trumpet things like “10 foods you never knew were killing you” “5 exercises to give you killer abs in 2 weeks” Watch what happens when you pour coke a cola over a carrot!”…I have never read one of these that was not absolute twaddle.
The internet is crowded with people looking to make money from people looking for a quick fix and an answer to their health and exercise needs. This is not a new phenomenon. “Experts and Gurus have been peddling their snake oil for years except that now, access is ubiquitous.
Something else to avoid: Because of the proliferation and availability of knowledge, everyone can now appear to be an expert. Beware of unasked for advice and even well-meaning advice from both lay and qualified exercisers. Sentences beginning “You need to..(Ought to, got to, must)” or “What worked for me was….” should be treated with caution.
As professionals, in the exercise, fitness and leisure sector we can’t tell people what and what not to read on the internet, nor can we police it or attack individuals who peddle falsehood and myths, but guiding people to information produced by qualified individuals based on consensus established science and helping them understand that not everything they see and hear is fact is a key responsibility. Talking and listening to people about their wants, needs, goals and aspirations in an empathetic, non-judgemental way is so much more effective than exposure to a thousand conflicting health and exercise messages on the internet.
If you are completely new to exercise and wanting guidance before you start, here are a few websites to help you on your journey.