Pinterest is the 3rd most popular social media site in the world. In its own words, it is "a tool for collecting and organizing the things that inspire you." In the US alone there are over 12 million users, the majority of which are women between the ages of 30-49, which also happens to be the demographic most likely to be on a diet and feel they need to lose weight.
I figured it's been a little while since I've done a good post on what this blog was originally about - looking at how fitness is portrayed in various forms of media. On that note, I thought I'd share a little glimpse into the world of fitness according to Pinterest users. It's kind of like opening a pack of Starbursts and finding around 99% of them are the crappy pink ones:
These 3 pins give a pretty good sense of the fitness advice one would receive if you wandered into the "Health and Fitness" category on Pinterest. Most of the posts can be boiled down to 3 categories:
1) Bloggers promoting themselves / others promoting bloggers (See pictures 1 & 3)
2) "Fitspo," aka pictures of lean girls with or without inspirational quotes
Boxing while wearing lacey underwear - not exactly inevitable
3) Actually pretty decent recipes for the most part (I won't lie, I DO look at the recipes a lot. Healthy General Tso's chicken has been my best find!)
Regarding pictures 1 & 3, it's not that these aren't exercises, there just isn't a rhyme or reason to any of them. Why am I doing 525 jumping jacks in a week? Why am I doing 5 kneeling push ups on Monday and then going straight to 5 regular push ups on Tuesday? What am I even accomplishing here? Burning calories? Practicing movements? Conditioning? Anything?
Why am I doing bicep curls while in a plank? Is my plank even any good if I'm holding it for like 5 minutes finishing that workout? (Probably not) Is it just for the challenge? The novelty? WHAT AM I EVEN DOING OH GOD MY LOWER BACK HURTS.
The thing is, this is basically every single post regarding workouts in the Health & Fitness category. Here are some more choice quotes:
"The Butt Workout That Works - The Angels' trainer reveals the moves that help you feel confident in your undies. Victoria's Secret Workout: Butt Exercises With Trainer Justin Gelband"
"Detox by Twisting - Twisting poses feel great, relieve pain/tension in the spine, and promote detoxification in the body."
I KNOW you know better than that.
"Easy exercises to get rid of a muffin top... I do the standing ones whenever I am waiting in a changing room or am on break at work, at home, anywhere no one can see me lol They actually work :)"
"Tummy-Toning Yoga Poses: A strong core prevents back pain, improves your balance and posture, and hey — it looks pretty good in a bikini, too. Try out this yoga sequence to tone your midsection just in time for Summer."
"12 min?!?!? I'm all over this!!!! The Belly and Thighs Workout: Trim your waistline and shape beautiful legs and thighs in just 12 minutes."
I used to get angry when I read these pins. "How can these women not know any better?" I'd think to myself. "How can that blogger pulling workouts out of their ass and giving them to thousands of women go to sleep at night?" But once I calmed down and tried to remind myself to not be so fucking judgmental, I saw the board as a valuable tool for reaching out to help. Pinterest actually gives us a glimpse into the minds of the demographic that is most likely to spend their money on fitness and diet programs. (Higher income, well-educated, middle-aged women)
Looking at the above pins, there is a lot to learn about what these women feel and desire:
1) Not to feel self-conscious while working out. (" I do the standing ones... anywhere no one can see me")
2) Short, effective workouts to fit in their busy lives.
3) To feel comfortable and confident in their clothing - and their own skin.
How can I blame anyone for wanting workouts that fulfill these very basic, reasonable requests? These 'pinners' aren't stupid, but they are perpetuating among themselves ideas that are not the most efficient ways to accomplish those goals. Perhaps the bloggers promoting their workouts aren't promoting efficient ones, but they are ones that fulfill request #1 - able to be done alone in their own home without fear of judgement.
So what does this demographic believe is true in regards to exercise according to 99% of pins?
1) Running is the best way to lose weight / bodyfat
2) Strength training is done with light weights / many repetitions for toning and spot reduction.
What I personally conclude from this is that while I (and probably most of us who spend a lot of time in the fitness field) thought many of these myths had been disproved or at the very least challenged (ESPECIALLY the spot reduction myth), for the women who use Pinterest, they are still very real.
If you're a trainer you can see this everyday - explain that spot reduction is a myth, have your client nod in agreement. Two weeks later they express concern at the lack of direct ab work - don't you remember they want to get rid of the pooch?
One of my first posts on my old blog was about the spot reduction myth - rest assured it's still as false as ever. There are no specific 'thigh thinning' workouts just like you can't tone your tummy with core-focused yoga poses. The only thing you can do to specifically reduce fat in an area is to reduce overall bodyfat through appropriate food intake and some sort of load-bearing exercise.
I know the above statement has been said a million times - maybe it still needs to be said MORE until it drowns out everything that promotes the contrary.
Which makes me wonder if I, and other like-minded fitness professionals / exercise enthusiasts, should have a heavier presence in this popular venue. After all, it is one of the few pieces of BIG media that we can change directly RIGHT NOW. There is no barrier to entry on what you pin and what category you can pin it to.
Could we change the thoughts of millions of women with more posts like this or this? What about this one or this one? Imagine a health and fitness board filled with informative, helpful, bullshit-dispelling posts like these.
I think it could be a powerful thing.
After all that happy understanding mush, let's end this post with probably my least favorite pin that I've seen way too many times:
"1. Drink one glass of water every hour. It will make you feel full.
2. Drink ice cold water. Your body will burn calories just getting the water to a normal temperature to digest. Also it is great for your complexion.
3. Drink 3 cups of green tea daily. It will help boost your metabolism, plus its anti-oxidants make your skin look great.
4. Take vitamins daily. Do not take vitamins on an empty stomache, otherwise they have nothing to catalyze with.
5. Eat ice when hungry. This will make your body think it had food without the calories.
6. Eat spicy foods. They raise your metabolism.
7. Take cold showers because your body will burn calories to heat you back up."
Sounds way too much like anorexia advice for my comfort levels. I hope that if you read this you recognize it as OCD bullshit.