September 17, 2019 | 59° F

BULNES: Instagram fitness is contrary to real life


Opinions Column: Mind Body Scarlet


monicabulnes
Photo by Dimitri Rodriguez |

The media has misrepresented male and female bodies for decades, and this trend has continued with the emergence of the digital age. Nowadays, we have access to unrealistic body images through social media on a 24-hour basis. Platforms such as Instagram misrepresent sustainable fitness and body goals through the profiles of fitness models, bloggers and body builders. 

Instagram can be used by trainers and models to promote their personal brand by displaying their bodies and talents. For them, it is a tool for acquiring business and earning an income. But many people are holding themselves to the standards of these models who have millions of followers admiring their bodies, and end up feeling discouraged by their own lack of progress in the gym. For anyone who is not interested in communicating with these models about personal training or business opportunities, they intend to serve as motivation for their followers. They are able to show you what the body can achieve once the mind accepts no limits, but their photos and short videos cannot teach the average person how to start a consistent fitness routine. It is counterproductive for a beginner to attempt exercises performed by someone on Instagram who is much farther along in their fitness journey. Tracking your own progress through personal photos can be much more satisfying and motivational than comparing yourself to others at different stages. Fitness goals are specific to your body type and personal preference — identifying and achieving those goals will not happen by watching countless fitness videos on Instagram.

In order to maximize your time in the gym and reap the full benefits from your workouts, it is important to rely on resources such as personal training. It can even be helpful to ask gym staff members for assistance with form and spotting and reading about techniques through fitness articles from verified sources. Instagram cannot replace such important methods of acquiring fitness knowledge. There are many videos created by influencers that give creative exercise ideas for targeting certain body parts, but watchers should be wary of these, because anyone could publish inaccurate content. For example, if a fitness blogger posts a video with incorrect form on a dead lift and you try recreating it at the gym, you could cause serious damage to your lower back. Your physical health should not be put in the hands of a random person on the internet. 

Deceptive material on social media can also come in the form of pictures. Fitness models pose in revealing clothing on Instagram to showcase their bodies, and these pictures are worshiped as what social media calls, "#goals." But people forget that there is power in lighting, different angles and Photoshop. Nowadays, it has become very difficult to tell what images have been altered, so you could be using a Photoshopped picture as your fitness goal. You set yourself up for failure if you aspire to look like someone who has body enhancements, Photoshop retouching and extremely posed photos. The people in these photos are human too and they do not stay flexed every second of every day. Everyone has bodies and muscles of different shapes and sizes and gaining muscle or losing weight in certain areas looks different on everyone. Our bodies are made to live in, not to stand perfectly still and be as toned and chiseled as the models on Instagram. Do not let unrealistic photos discourage you from attaining reasonable and healthy fitness goals. Trust me — when those models stop flexing, put on more clothes and live their normal lives, they look like ordinary people too. 

There is no extraordinary skill needed to begin working out and you can get started with very minimal supplies. Despite what Instagram will make you believe, you do not need $300 headphones nor do you need high priced workout clothes endorsed by fitness models. You especially do not need to go to the gym with perfect hair and makeup. Working out is about sweating, disrupting your muscles and moving your body in ways you do not typically move throughout your day — you can do that in a t-shirt and basic workout pants.  

Instagram is a great way to get ideas about fitness, to inspire and to create awareness — but it should not be the full extent of your fitness knowledge. Many people step foot in a gym for the first time in months and expect to look like an Instagram model within a couple of weeks. Those models have been working at their goals for years as their main hobby and their job — their fitness routines are used for maintenance and hitting personal records. If fitness is not your hobby and you have a really tight schedule, then these models should not be your benchmark for success. Do not let Instagram models discourage you from having regular fitness goals — fitness does not have to look like it does in the media. 

Monica Bulnes is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in economics and minoring in business administration. Her column, "Mind Body Scarlet," runs on alternate Tuesdays.

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Monica Bulnes

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