Instagram is now home to countless fitness and nutrition influencers, so many in fact, it’s virtually impossible to get an exact number. Anyone and everyone is can post content to their feed in the hope it will be picked up by wannabe workout warriors around the world, who deem their posts to be the ones to follow.
We have no doubts that many of you reading this will be following at least one or two fitness accounts, whether it be to find new exercises to try in the gym (or at home, as is the case is right now) or to get new recipes to keep our bodies in the best shape possible.
The sheer scale of the influencer industry got us wondering just how much Instagram has affected the fitness landscape in Australia. If an account gets picked up and starts trending, it not only leads to an inevitable gain in followers but said influencer can then command exclusive deals with fitness brands, protein products (even the ones that might not be so effective) to promote and ultimately earn themselves a career. A quick gym session in return for a payout isn’t exactly a bad way to make a living.
Business Insider has spoken to fitness influencer Elliot Burton on this matter, who said, “Individuals are quick to adhere to the words of big-name influencers who get big-name money to promote detox teas and weight loss plans that aren’t credible or even healthy”
“If your values aren’t in the right place you may do things that add a stigma to the label,”
“If you’re providing people with genuine value and not just trying to squeeze them for every penny they have, then I think you can have such a positive impact.’
We wanted to do some digging of our own, so reached out to Sam Wood, an Instagram user with a 276,000-strong following and a man who doesn’t consider himself a fitness influencer, but more of a guy who is “on a mission to help people move more, eat better and make positive change” – which he does via his 28 by Sam Wood brand of quick workouts and recipes – to get his perspective of on how social media has changed the way we eat and the way we workout.
We first asked Sam straight up if he agrees that Instagram has changed the way Australian men get their fitness and nutrition information.
“This is a great question”, he replies (thanks, Sam) “because it comes down to inspo (inspirational) vs credible info.”
“The reason it’s effective is that Instagram brings the information to you, rather than you having to go and find it.”
But compared with information you could get from a credible online source when surfing the web, Sam warns us not all is always good in Instagram-land. “The danger is you are often drawn to someone’s aesthetic rather than their qualifications and knowledge. It tends to show you lots of exercises that look fantastic but don’t necessarily have any functional benefit to you.”
This is in addition to Sam’s previous comments for another article that suggested Instagram can be riddled with ‘fake’ users and we shouldn’t always believe what we see.
We’ve reported before on how Instagram has affected the ‘ideal male body image‘, with the most recent trend edging towards a leaner look as opposed to huge dudes that resemble modern-day Schwarzeneggers. So if it’s the leaner look you want, you obviously need to carefully curate your Instagram feed to reflect this.
And remember, once you’ve found someone you want to look like, it can take a serious amount of time in the gym and in the kitchen to achieve a similar look. Fitness influencers workout for a living, you may not have the same sort of time on your hands to focus on getting the exact look you want.
It could be argued that forming nutrition ideals in Australia is relatively easy since this nation tends to be more health-focused than most (it’s certainly a view this British writer has noticed since arriving down under).
Step into any cafe in any city in Australia and you’re virtually guaranteed to find dishes involving avocado feature on the menu, a range of salads and all manner of super-smoothies. Open up your Instagram feed and it’s likely a number of influencers you follow will have their own spin on these same menu items.
As for whether Sam thinks Instagram has an influence on the nutrition ideals Australian men aspire to, he says, “Yes, I think it’s very hard to argue against this.”
“I love that seeing a physique that you would love to have is perhaps the catalyst for getting people moving, but people absolutely need to understand that these freak fitness physiques should not be what we are aiming to have.”
“People should be focusing on being healthy and strong far before worrying about what they look like from an aesthetic perspective.”
Sam’s last words can be backed up by those of Andy Anderson, change expert and founder of the Ultimate You Change Centres. We spoke to him a few months ago regarding Inastagram and male body image, and he told us it’s far more important to listen to our bodies, than the media.
“We should ask ourselves: ‘Do I feel good? Is my energy increasing? Am I sustaining my momentum during the day? Do I feel happier? Do I have more clarity? Do I feel more motivated? And not just: ‘What do I look like?”
Ultimately, it seems, Instagram has a profound effect on the ideals Australian men aspire to. With so many of us scrolling, liking and following accounts every day, it should be no surprise that what we consider to be the absolute goal is influenced by the content we see.