How to Spot Bad Fitness Advice

You spend quality time and money trying to get fit. Here’s how to make sure you’re getting the right advice for you.

Is he watching his client or the camera? Photo via Shutterstock

Is he watching his client or the camera? Photo via Shutterstock

Do you trust your trainer? Would you know if a trainer or instructor’s advice was sound, effective, and even safe?

As one of the fittest cities in the country, Boston is not in short supply of trainers, instructors, studios, gyms, or running groups. However, that doesn’t mean that all fitness advice is created equal, and as a savvy consumer, it’s important to know the good, the bad, and the oh-no-I-need-physical-therapy-now ugly.

Here are some tips for spotting bad fitness advice:

1. Watch for advice that heavily promotes one form of exercise or lacks variety.
Be very wary of exercise routines that promote one specific form of training as superior or dispels other forms of exercise. For example, going to a barre class is great; however, red flags should rise if any instructor says that this is all you need. A well-rounded exercise program should include a variety of training methods and not rely heavily on just one.

2. Look out for absolute words like, “always”, “never”, “have to”, and “only”.
Be aware of fitness advice that uses absolute statements such as “women should never lift weights”, or “you should always stretch”. These are blanket statements aimed to lure you into class or prevent you from taking another, that do not take into account the client’s needs. Throw in any program that takes an “all or nothing” mentality, like “you have to feel sore for it to work” to this list as well.

3. If it sounds too good to be true…it is.
If losing 30 pounds in 10 days sounds too good to be true, then guess what? It is. Statements like this usually comes from short-sighted programs that may produce dramatic results quickly, but are not sustainable. Avoid programs that promise to deliver dramatic results in a short time period.

4. Programs and advice that do not focus on assessing a client first can be dangerous.
A trainer should review health history, observe muscle patterns, and take into consideration a client’s abilities and limitations, like previous injuries, in order to decrease the chances of new injuries. Look for programs that focus on establishing a baseline first with modifications as you progress.

5. Lack of attention to detail and feedback. If you’re shopping for a trainer in a gym, watch the trainers that are working with clients. It may feel a bit stalker-ish, but this is a great assessment of how they will work with you. Consider how they are interacting with their client. If a trainer looks distracted, or seems to be giving bogus or generic feedback, like telling a client their form looks great while barely looking at them, then I’d rule this trainer out. Look for trainers who are completely present during sessions, and provide both visual and verbal feedback to correct form. The worst kind of trainers are the ones that are looking around the room for other potential clients while they are supposed to be working with you.

Want some good fitness advice? Here’s a stability ball core routine you can do at home.