The Problem With Taking Health Advice From Instagram

08/12/2015 1:39 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
Berthold Trenkel via Getty Images
Female exercising in La Defense/Paris. Holding her mobile phone, earphones in - ready to jog among the big skyscrapers at La Defense.

With over 300 million monthly active users looking for visual inspiration it is no wonder Instagram is fast becoming the world's most widely searched social media channel for fitness and health motivation and inspiration.

Search the hashtag #fitspo and you will find over 24 million posts dedicated to inspiring viewers in the pursuit of ultimate health and physical perfection.

But according to health and wellness expert Amber Walker, the growing platform needs to be enjoyed but not followed religiously when it comes to health and fitness advice.

“As a qualified Personal Trainer and Holistic Nutritionist I applaud any person actively trying to better their health and fitness,“ Walker told The Huffington Post Australia.

“However, the concern with using social media, in particular Instragram, as your source of education and guidance is the credibility of the source you are viewing.”

Walker has won three world championship fitness trophies and coached the likes of Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem and the cast of Pirates of the Caribbean 5 cast, so it's safe to say she's an authority on the subject -- unlike others touting #fitspo advice on Instagram.

She identifies four main areas of concerns when it comes to #fitspo posts and profiles.

Unqualified ‘trainers’

“Whilst there is a wealth of highly qualified medical, natural and physical health professionals using Instagram as a means to communicate with their followers, there is just as many unqualified people posting health and fitness advice and workout videos.

The concern is that thousands and sometimes millions of people are following the advice of these people whom are in now way trained to give such guidance.”

Impossible standards

“In many circumstances the ‘ideal’ bodies we see on Instagram do not exist. Images are edited, filtered, nipped and tucked through apps to create a flawless end image.

Fans following the tips of such profiles in an attempt to achieve their ‘perfect’ body image, are setting themselves impossible expectations.

Every body and lifestyle is different, it is unhealthy to judge a persons lifestyle choices as suitable for your own purely on the carefully selected images they put on Instagram.

What we should be focused on is looking within, finding what makes us feel good, what our body tells us it needs. Not comparing to others.”

Kills self esteem

“For many women Instagram fitspiration photos do nothing but create an instant whipping stick to deplete their self esteem and confidence. Like the skinny movement before it, the fit movement pressures women to live, eat and look a certain way to feel attractive."

Narrow view of health

“Fitspiration photos offer a very limited view of health and fitness, as they are primarily focused on how to eat and exercise to look a certain way. They completely take away how a person feels emotionally, mentally and physically.

True health and fitness is about finding a complete 360 degree balance. Creating a lifestyle that nurtures you nutritionally, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

We have all read stories of women who achieved what society perceives as physically perfection, but still had low esteem and confidence. This is because focusing solely on how you look neglects all other elements of your total well being that need to be nurtured to find true health and happiness.”

Amber’s advice to anyone on a personal path to health and fitness?

“Move away from your phone, turn off Instagram, stop comparing yourselves to others and go into the world and find what works for you. Find what makes you feel fit, healthy, happy and confident and don’t worry what that looks like compared to others around you.”

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