There are calls to regulate unaccredited self-titled fitness gurus who hand out health and fitness advice on social media.
Workout photos and fitness advice labeled ''Fitspiration' on social media may seem to promote a healthy lifestyle, but the impact on mental health is causing concern among professionals.
A research paper, the first of its kind to focus on Instagram, published by Professor Tiggemann at Flinders University concluded that “a practice (fitspiration) avowedly designed to promote healthy eating and exercise can have (unintended) negative consequences on body image”.
Instagram has become a haven for the fitness obsessed, spawning over 800 million monthly users in 2017 with numbers set to rise but the fitness culture has a dark-side.
Libby Babet, personal trainer on The Biggest Loser Australia, said regulation was needed online in the same way it exists in the real world.
Meer Awny, a strength and conditioning personal trainer, agreed. “There are no restrictions on Instagram fitness, but there should be.”
Awny claims those who are looking for fitness help are being conned and put in a vulnerable position.
“If you told me a 21-day program was going to change me… I am educated to know that isn’t going to happen. But for someone who doesn’t have a fitness history and is looking for help, the messages of sexy imagery, high follower count and glossy Instagram, it’s going to sell. But it’s not safe pyshically or psychologically.”
The currency of Instagram is counted by the number of followers an account has, but doubles as a misleading modern day form of accreditation in the online fitness world.
Australia’s top ‘fitness gurus’ have over 3 million Instagram followers combined, and their popularity is largely linked to their ability to make exercise glamorous and fun, no formal qualifications needed.
Babet is the mastermind behind BUF Girls. “I see a lot of women coming to my business with eating disorders after doing programs that focus on counting calories. In the long-term that can really mess you up.”
A spokesperson from the Australian Medical Association says, "People should always be wary about following health advice from bloggers. Your GP is the best place to start for nutrition advice and before starting any fitness regime."