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Should You Follow Fitness Influencers? Tips for Finding a Reliable One

Back in the day (pre-social media), when you wanted to get into shape or build muscle, you may have turned to a trained expert at your local gym or read fitness articles. 

In today’s digital age, most Americans turn to fitness influencers on TikTok (or “FitTok”), Instagram, YouTube and other social media platforms. With millions of followers and seemingly perfect physiques, these “fit-fluencers” have become the go-to source for health, diet and fitness advice. 

However, beneath the surface lies a concerning truth. While some fitness influencers genuinely promote science-backed knowledge, others promote misguided and dangerous advice.  

“Many of these influencers don’t have any formal education and aren’t equipped to give information or advice regarding exercise or fitness,” said Blake Baxter, a performance coach at Banner Sports Medicine High Performance Center.  

Read on to understand some of the dangers of exercise-themed social media and gain helpful tips on what to look for in a fitness instructor so you are set up for success. 

Dangers of fitspiration-themed social media accounts 

The illusion of perfection 

Social media is flooded with images of flawless bodies and seemingly effortless workouts, creating an unattainable ideal. These unrealistic standards of perfection – and sometimes heavily edited and filtered images – can lead to feelings of inadequacy and a negative body image. 

In a 2023 study, researchers found that nearly two-thirds of the 100 most popular fitness influencer accounts promoted unhealthy or unrealistic body shapes. 

Unrealistic exercise expectations 

Fitness influencers often display intense workouts and extreme dieting regimens, promoting a “no pain, no gain” mentality. While challenging exercises can benefit some, it’s important to recognize that their fitness journey may differ significantly from yours. 

“Without a true understanding of the science, these influencers are at risk of hurting or putting someone in a situation that could have negative and detrimental consequences,” Baxter said. “Pushing yourself beyond your limits or attempting exercises without proper guidance can result in injuries and physical setbacks.” 

Mental health impact 

Constant exposure to images of idealized bodies and fitness achievements can trigger feelings of anxiety, depression and self-doubt.  

This toxic fitness culture promotes one shape and size and isn’t inclusive or mindful of different body types. The pressure to conform can be overwhelming and contribute to body dysmorphia and disordered eating habits

Tips for choosing a reliable fitness influencer 

If you think a fitness influencer is just what you need to boost your workout routine or fitness goals, Baxter shared these four tips to consider before hitting that follow button.  

1. They are qualified and experienced 

Seek influencers with relevant qualifications, certifications or professional backgrounds in fitness training, nutrition or exercise physiology. Their knowledge and expertise will ensure they provide accurate information and safe recommendations. 

2. They take a balanced approach 

The influencer should emphasize the importance of listening to your body, practicing self-care and promoting mental well-being and physical health. 

“When starting, make sure the person takes a balanced approach and is preaching a message which incorporates exercise progression, consistency and a positive outlook regarding expectation management,” Baxter said. 

“It’s about making the necessary steps to become consistent and re-aligning dietary intake needs which will accommodate a safe and healthy fitness/health goal,” he added. “The results will come, but the foundational approach is consistency and effort.” 

3. They are authentic and “real” 

Every single person has struggles in life – whether big or small. Seek out influencers who share their struggles and setbacks along with their achievements.  

Transparency about their journey helps create a realistic and relatable narrative, reminding you that progress is possible — it just takes time. 

4. Their account is inclusive and body positive 

Look for influencers who empower their followers rather than promote unrealistic and one-size-fits-all ideals.  

A diverse range of body types and fitness levels should be celebrated, helping to challenge the unrealistic beauty standards often on display on social media.  

Messages of self-acceptance, self-love and celebrating small wins are crucial for fostering a healthy mindset. 

5. Get the A-OK from your provider

 Talk to your health care provider before starting a new program, diet or routine. They can advise you on what exercise programs and diets may or may not be the best fit based on your physical ability and health.  

Then schedule a one-on-one with a certified and educated fitness professional regarding proper exercises and progression. Some gyms offer free fitness assessments.  

You can also ask your provider for a recommendation or referral to a sports medicine facility. 

“A fitness professional will understand and provide guidance on how to progress your exercises properly,” Baxter said. “Rushing and pressing for the results you want immediately will only cause injury. It’s about slowly ramping back into the swing of things.” 


While fitness influencers can serve as a source of motivation and inspiration, it’s important to check in occasionally to see what impact they may be having on your exercise routines and mental well-being. By being mindful of the potential negative effects of fit-fluencers, you can make informed choices about the influencers you follow.  

Prioritizing authenticity, knowledge and a balanced approach to fitness will enable us to maintain a healthy relationship with exercise and promote our overall well-being. Remember, you are on your unique journey, and self-care should always be the foundation of any fitness routine. 

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