Is #Fitspiration Healthy Or Harmful?

From kale and Probiotics to boxing and Kayla Itsines’ 28-minute workouts, the past year has introduced a number of new positive trends to the health and fitness industry.

However, one trend that has risen, #Fitspiration (or fitspo), may not be so positive for women’s body image.

Fitspiration is essentially photos, usually shared on Instagram, Pinterest, or other health-centric social media platforms, that are intended to motivate the viewer to workout, whether that be outdoors, in a yoga studio, or at the gym.

These photos tend to take the form of an extremely fit and beautiful woman either simply looking toned and tanned, or with a quote, like “hard work pays off,” scrawled across rock-solid abs.

The reality is that while Fitspiration is promoting active living through hard work and dedication to one’s self, much of it fails to allow for any definition of fitness that is not exemplified by rock-hard abs, perky-butts and toned legs.

As many other forms of media do, Fitspiration puts women in a bind by saying, “This is what health looks like.”

For some women, the body portrayed in Fitspiration may be totally attainable with hard work. However, for others, that body type is not only impossible to achieve but also may not be the healthiest version of themselves.  Everyone’s body is different— cliché, but true— which means that fitness looks different on everyone.

A recent article in Women’s Health cited a study published in the International Journal of Health, which found that women who looked at images of fitness models while exercising, felt more tense post-workout, then when they began their workout. This means that they completely cancelled out the positive rush of endorphins, which is usually associated with working out. It has been associated time and time again that women who look at idealized images of the female figure have a more negative body image and more anxiety. While there is a lack of research specifically into the effects of Fitspiration, it can be suggested that looking at Fitspiration, since it is usually an idealized image, could also produce these negative effects.

Another issue with Fitspiration is that it often objectifies women. Many Fitspiration images focus on sections of a woman’s body, for example, her abs or butt; which effectively sexualizes and dehumanizes the woman. She is no longer an individual, but instead a collection of toned body parts that other women should aspire to be.

None of this is to say that there are not websites or Instagram profiles that promote different portrayals of the fit body because there a lot of popular pages that do so (Kayla Itsines and Healthy is the New Skinny to name two).

The problem with Fitspiration comes down to the root of so many body-image issues for women today: comparing ourselves to an impossible standard.

While these standards should not be set in the first place, we need to remember that fitness is defined by more than just toned body parts and inspirational quotes. Fitness is a point in which body and mind are not only healthy but work in a way that is best for you.

So let’s do our squats, but instead of using bikini model butts as inspiration, let’s do it for that badass feeling when you know you’re treating your one-of-a-kind body with the respect it deserves.

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Annabelle Hackney

Editorial Contributor, University of Pennsylvania Major: Communicaitons, minor in Creative Writing Her heart belongs to: Salty air, beach hair, Sunday mornings and workout clothes.

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