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How the Fitness Industry Silently Contributes to the Body Image Concerns of the General Public


How much time do you spend on social media or watching media in general? No doubt you spend quite a few hours daily, right? It happens. It’s become our way of life now to spend time scrolling through our newsfeeds or flipping through channels to find that one station that will help take our minds on a new adventure. If you’re part of the fitness or health industry you’re probably keen about related pages and you’ve no doubt hit the “like” button and subscribed to a few of them.


[National Posture Institute] How the Fitness Industry Silently Contributes to the Body Image Concerns of the General Public

In marketing, whenever we target people who we want our messages to reach, we always think of their interests. We think about the pages those people liked and subscribed too, so it’s no wonder the tabs on the side reflect what we view the most. What’s interesting is how so many of the models in the fitness & health related content seem so similar. After seeing so much of it, it’s made me think more about how that’s contributed to the perception of one’s body image.

Let’s think about it for a moment; how does the typical image of what we consider to be the fit person affect the general population? We know for a fact that children and adults struggle with their body image, but are those images causing some of the anxiety? If it’s not in the media it’s all around us in the gyms or other spaces, the image of the body we should have or the image that we must aspire to become. That image is constantly linked to a sense of fitness. If you want to be fit, this is how you need to look. If you aren’t this, then you may not be as fit as you think you are.

I think it causes a serious issue; people examine their bodies and think this isn’t right enough; they aren’t “fit” because they aren’t muscular enough. They don’t have the six-pack, the big bulging biceps, the cut chest, the tiny waist, or other perky areas, so they must be doing something wrong or need to step it up to achieve that image. What does it do to a person to constantly have this perception imprinted on them? To have images of this so-called fit person shown to them all the time?

It could very well lead to anxiety over their body and it could mean some negative behaviors and responses in order to try to fit into this mold. What does a person need to do to look like the typical fitness model? Many no doubt invest in supplements, pills, programs, or subscribe to some, usually dangerous and counterproductive, method to try to shed the pounds so their awesome six-pack can shine through. I’ve seen a number of posts where men are painting abs on their bodies or injecting material in their biceps and body to get that ideal look. Why? Why do they need the large biceps and chiseled six-pack to feel like they’ve achieved some level of fitness?

What happened to fitness being a measure of your health and abilities to perform as opposed to a particular look? As fitness professionals, we know that someone can look the part but be unhealthy or the person looks the part because they did something unhealthy to get there. The market is full of detoxes, creams, and all manner of program or item to help achieve this dream look, but most of these do little if anything to actually help a person’s self-esteem, let alone impact their fitness level.

Is it destructive to see only one type of fitness model? Quite possibly, and the fitness industry could have, I posit that they did, contributed to some of the anxiety over body image that is running so rampant in our society today. The way forward is to vary the image of the fit person. This is by no means a call for promoting unhealthy habits, but leaders in the industry haven’t exactly spoken out about the unsavory habits that some use to achieve the look either. 

When the woman who runs marathons or just manages to exercise regularly and eats properly still has a gut, but is healthy and yet left unseen, while the latter, who may have attained their results through dangerous means, is promoted, it raises some serious questions about our focus. Is it the look or is it the health of the person, and are there ways to include more people in the image of a fit person?

This is by no means saying that everyone with a six-pack and bulging biceps has become so through negative channels, people bust their tails all the time to achieve their bodies. To those people I salute, because it’s no easy task. However, understand that they can’t be the only standard for fitness. This is certainly a call to expand what we deem as a representation of fitness. There should be more images that we can aspire to become, but above all we should aspire to be healthy. If the image we purport of the fit person changes, anxiety around the body and what we can achieve could very well change also.

This is a heavy subject; it’s debatable indeed, but one thing that needs no debate is the attention we pay to our education and preparedness. If you’re looking for more visual teaching aids to learn more about posture, posture analysis, and body alignment check out our DVD series. You’ll learn how to assess, analyze, and correct posture and you’ll learn at your own pace. The DVDs are great for anyone that needs more step-by-step tutoring on the subject.

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