Jackson Gray | The Poly Pist

Social media is dangerous for fitness enthusiasts

By Luis Olguin, Feb. 28, 2023

People who tend to go to the gym used social media to promote their progress from the gym or to boost their ego as well as influence those around them. But, there have been instances where those same people film others to farm likes and attention. These instances are creating anxiety for current and incoming gym goers.

Social media has harmed the gym industry in more ways than it has helped. Social media is promoting unrealistic body standards, promoting drug use and oversaturating users with content of heavy lifting claiming to be easy. On top of all that, people lack motivation in fear of judgment and ridicule of others in the gym.

I use social media to follow transparent influencers who promote healthy lifestyles, exercise plans, nutrition tips and overall gym tips. However, this was not always the case, as I started working out two years ago and don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

Two years ago, I was in a terrible mental headspace and was close to being 300 pounds of pure fat and regret. I was disgusted when looking at the mirror.

I would love to say that things changed, but I still dislike what I see. I still see the tub of lard that would eat a $20 dinner for two at Chili’s all by myself. Due to all the social media content around me and constant training at the gym, I have developed a bit of body dysmorphia. I know I’m not that fat anymore, but I can’t help thinking about it.

Jackson Gray | The Poly Pist

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

Apart from that, there has been an influx of generic copy-and-paste influencers or gym gurus who have taken over the gym floor and are all over social media. This wouldn’t be a problem, but most of these influencers promote unnecessary supplements, promote unrealistic body goals, unrealistic weight to lift and lack transparency overall. These characteristics can influence beginning gym enthusiasts with difficult lifting and body goals.

In the gym industry there are multiple influencers and regular people who train while “enhanced,” or on performance enhancing drugs.  For example, there was the very popular influencer Liver King who promoted this primal lifestyle of working out and nutrition with his own line of supplements. He was asked on multiple occasions if he has used any type of steroid, and he denied all accusations and lacked transparency. Yet he was recently just outed to be on multiple forms of these “enhancers.”

The biggest problem facing the fitness industry is the promotion of enhanced drugs through social media. My “For You” page on TikTok is filled with countless videos of gym tips, workout plans and nutrition. Then, there are a few videos that filter through talking or joking about “tren.” Tren is the most well-known and talked-about steroid in the fitness industry. There are also other anabolic stimulants, like steroids and unresearched drugs like SARMs, that get promoted on TikTok.

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

Some of the most common posts when viewing these accounts is content of their body progress, massive lifts and overall good physique at a very young age. People with bad body dysmorphia can fall under the trap and believe that steroids must be the key to them obtaining their dream physique.

Accounts like these have almost convinced me to try steroids to obtain my dream physique. But, they come with high stakes. Countless side effects and negative outcomes can come from taking these dangerous untested drugs. Once you take steroids, you cannot go back; it becomes a lifestyle with multiple drawbacks.

According to National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are multiple possible health consequences of anabolic steroids misuse such as high blood pressure, blood clots, aggression, delusion, severe acne and cysts. In addition, male and female users of steroids can develop specific hormonal health complications. Males can decrease their sperm production, shrink their testicles and develop male-pattern baldness. For females, there is voice deepening, a decrease in breast size and excessive body hair growth.

Further, picture editing and great lighting make miles of difference when showing off your progress on social media. Most gym goers have learned to take the perfect picture with the most optimal lighting.

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

For example, many of these influencers promote the idea that if one cannot bench press 225 pounds then they should quite the gym overall. Which is a ludicrous statement as how that is quite a difficult lift for many and takes quite amount of training. Because of the typical person’s sedentary lifestyle, which results in insufficient stimulation being applied to their skeletal muscles and consequently leaves them physically weak, the average man is unable to bench press 225 pounds. In many online bodybuilding forms, it is stated that around 1% of the world population can lift 225 pounds.

Working out and testing one’s own limits in strength is invigorating. Attending the gym allows one to have personal records and realistic goals one can beat. I encourage all to join their local gym or even the Bronco Recreation and Intramural Complex on campus. You will never know what you can achieve at the gym if you don’t try it. These negatives of the gym industry shouldn’t be a deterrent for one to try it out. In its purest form and in real life, the gym is a fantastic place to meet friends and companions that have similar goals to you.

Feature image by Jackson Gray

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