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Problems With Online Exercise Advice

Many online fitness recommendations include hidden product advertising.

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Health information

Remember to be careful when taking online exercise advice, as much of it is inaccurate. Oregon State University researchers in Corvallis analyzed fitness recommendations from four types of organizations—government, professional associations, commercial sites and voluntary health agencies—and compared it with national physical activity guidelines. Researchers found that professional associations and government sites were best at sharing accurate information, while commercial sites were worst. On many commercial sites, information targeted specific body parts, emphasizing appearance while promoting food supplements or exercise equipment. Investigators noted that much information online is directed at people who are already active.

“Online exercise advice is incomprehensible for many and incomplete for everybody,” said study author Brad Cardinal, PhD, kinesiology professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University. “For people who are inactive, and even people whose jobs include active labor but [who] are hoping to develop an exercise routine, the online information was generally unhelpful.”

Read the full study in the Translational Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine (2020; 5 [9], 82–91).

See also: Social Media Influencers Give Inaccurate Health Advice

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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