Social media is dangerous for fitness enthusiasts

By Luis Olguin on February 28, 2023

People who tend to go to the gym used social media to promote their progress in the gym or to boost their ego and influence those around them. But there have been cases where the same people filmed others to gain likes and attention. These cases scare current and new gym goers.

Social media has done more harm than good to the fitness industry. Social media promotes unrealistic body standards, encourages drug use, and saturates users with content that pretends heavy lifting and claims to be easy. Additionally, people lack motivation for fear of judgment and ridicule of others in the gym.

I use social media to follow transparent influencers promoting healthy lifestyle, exercise plans, nutrition tips and general fitness tips. This wasn’t always the case, however, as I started training two years ago and have no plans to stop anytime soon.

Two years ago I was in a terrible mental state and was almost 300 pounds of pure fat and regret. I was disgusted when I looked in the mirror.

I’d love to say things have changed, but I still don’t like what I’m seeing. I still see the tub of lard that a $20 dinner for two at Chili’s would eat all by itself. Because of all the social media content around me and the constant training at the gym, I’ve developed mild body dysmorphia. I know I’m not that fat anymore, but I can’t help but think about it.

Jackson Gray | The poly slope

Whether they go to the gym or not, people can develop body dysmorphia because of social media like Instagram or TikTok. We all scroll, swipe, or like through countless hours of a social media feed and see content from beautiful or rich people. These people that we admire or long to be with are always better off than we are, physically or financially. I believe that social media plays a big part in our self-doubt.

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That being said, there has been an influx of copy-and-paste generic influencers or gym gurus taking over the gym floor and all over social media. That wouldn’t be a problem, but most of these influencers promote unnecessary supplements, unrealistic body goals, unrealistic weight to lift, and an overall lack of transparency. These traits can influence gym novices with difficult lifting and body goals.

There are several influencers and regular people in the fitness industry who “enhance” or train with performance-enhancing drugs. For example, there was the very popular influencer Liver King, who promoted this original lifestyle of training and eating with his own line of supplements. He was asked multiple times if he used any type of steroids and he denied all allegations and lacked transparency. And yet he was recently outed to be that “enhancer” on several forms.

The biggest problem facing the fitness industry is the promotion of improved drugs on social media. My For You page on TikTok is filled with tons of fitness tips, workout plans, and nutrition videos. Then there are a few videos filtered through conversations or jokes about “tren”. Tren is the best known and most talked about steroid in the fitness industry. There are also other anabolic stimulants like steroids and unexplored drugs like SARMs that are promoted on TikTok.

Countless accounts promote their use and perform unreliable routines on them. These reports can be dangerous as they can influence others to take the easier route to a great physique. There are reports of young teenagers claiming they are on drugs and posting evidence of their physique.

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Some of the most common posts when looking at these accounts is content about her physique progression, massive lifts, and an overall good physique at a very young age. People with bad body dysmorphia can fall into the trap of believing that steroids must be the key to their dream body.

Reports like this almost convinced me to try steroids to achieve my dream body. But they come with high stakes. Countless side effects and negative consequences can result from taking these dangerous, untested drugs. Once you’ve taken steroids, you can’t go back; it becomes a lifestyle with several disadvantages.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are several potential health consequences of anabolic steroid abuse such as high blood pressure, blood clots, aggression, delusions, severe acne, and cysts. Additionally, both male and female steroid users can develop specific hormonal health complications. Men can decrease their sperm production, shrink their testicles, and develop male pattern baldness. In women, there is a deepening of the voice, a decrease in breast size, excessive growth of hair on the body.

Additionally, photo editing and great lighting make a huge difference when showing off your progress on social media. Most gym-goers have learned to capture the perfect picture with the optimal lighting.

With the help of social media, the fitness industry is saturated with naturally fit and healthy people promoting a new “normal” that is worrisome for beginners. With the use of social media like TikTok, naturally healthy people or people with a healthier track record in strength training fit in; have promoted the idea that a person is weak if they cannot lift the same weight as them.

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For example, many of these influencers are promoting the idea that if they can’t bench press 225 pounds, they should quit the gym altogether. Which is a ridiculous statement as for many this is quite a difficult lift and requires quite a bit of training. Due to the typical person’s sedentary lifestyle, which causes their skeletal muscles to not be stimulated enough and consequently they become physically weak, the average man is unable to bench press 225 pounds. Many online bodybuilding forms state that about 1% of the world’s population can lift 225 pounds.

Working out and testing your own strength limits is invigorating. Going to the gym allows you to set personal records and set realistic goals that you can beat. I encourage everyone to join their local gym or even the Bronco Recreation and Intramural Complex on campus. You’ll never know what you can achieve in the gym if you don’t try. These negative aspects of the fitness industry shouldn’t put anyone off trying it. In its purest form and in real life, the gym is a fantastic place to meet friends and companions who have similar goals as you.

Featured image by Jackson Gray