Instagram: Promoting fitness one post at a time

With great Internet freedom comes great Internet responsibility: Try to limit antagonistic attitude, especially when directly criticizing a group.

Take a moment to appreciate the relatively recent spike in “fitspiration” accounts on Instagram. For those of you who haven’t been exposed to this, fitspo accounts are essentially Instagrams or blogs that post exclusively to promote exercise and a healthy lifestyle.

I recently found an article that listed reasons Instagram fitspiration shouldn’t be encouraged. Let me be clear: I really, really try to avoid these amateur lists at all costs, but the curiosity of potentially hearing an argument against exercise led me to a prompt click.

The writer, Kayla Inglima, started off her article claiming that she recently took up a healthier lifestyle and didn’t exactly give me the “I have an unhealthy lifestyle, and my life is fine!” proclamation I was hoping to read, but she did provide a list of 11 poorly reasoned points. Some of these points include claiming that the accounts “make average people think they are famous,” “make their food look sad” and make bodybuilders, like the flexing woman pictured alongside the article, feel sexy. 

First of all, it seems a bit hypocritical to claim that Instagram has only one group trying to make itself feel famous — to what else does the brag-influenced concept of Instagram cater? But even if we do grant this fame-seeking exclusively to fitspo accounts, I think this critic should consider the positive benefits that these inspirational accounts have on followers and the benefit that Instagram has provided with these accounts.

There are a few topics that definitely are valid to spread quickly among individuals, such as news, recipes and astrology, which stand apart from the useless selfies and pictures of chain food dishes that take up the majority of our feeds. The reason they stand in the former category is that they give viewers an opportunity to change something about themselves. Whether they offer us knowledge about what’s going on in our world, a way to change our meals or an opportunity to refine our opinions, these Internet spaces inspire us to change alongside each other instead of simply receiving likes for what we’re doing or criticizing others for their positions.

That’s what fitspo accounts do. Going along with the agenda that many Americans took after years of hearing about how unhealthy their lifestyle is — think the “Supersize Me” era — many decided to use this as an opportunity to change. These accounts don’t simply create a cult of extra-fit bodybuilders who dedicate their time to nothing but fitness, as Elite Daily implied. They post recipes, exercises and legitimate forms of inspiration that attempt to encourage us, including average Joes like me, to adopt or maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

For example, you might be familiar with “Transformation Tuesdays,” a trend that showcases those with incredible before and after pictures, created by hard work and oftentimes helped by the motivation provided through fitspo accounts. In the middle of a day of mindless scrolling through social media, what’s wrong with a few positive messages about positive changes?

Haley Williams, a 24 year old newly announced body builder (currently training for her first national competition this summer) holds a fitness-based Instagram account with more than 3,000 followers. Her relatively newly acquired passion is reflected in the tool that allowed her to become part of a virtual community.

“Personally, Instagram keeps me motivated. I follow all the people who compete on a professional level that I look up to. And the crazy part about the Instagram #fitfam community is like the post said, ‘We actually care about people and not judge.’ Sometimes professionals answer your questions when you ask for advice and you get to learn from the people you look up to.”

“I learned everything about competing through Instagram. How to pose, where to buy a suit, where to even compete…everything came from Instagram. I also get new ideas with workouts and dieting tips. It’s an amazing tool.”

Instagram also became a means of canvassing her own accomplishments as a fitness enthusiast and business partner.

“I just decided to integrate my fitness posts into my own personal account. I then discovered this whole community of users who shared the same passion as I did; it’s truly motivating and inspiring. By using the right sharing features on my posts, others could see my posts as well, and we could all follow and support one another. We aren’t a cult, we are a community of people who support each other’s passions.”

But perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of these accounts is the simple motivation of self-satisfaction behind them all that we can all relate to.

“I have chosen to share my life and accomplishments because I’m happy. I want to show that anyone can be happy doing something they love.”

Granted, there is a significant number of people who simply use the Internet to showcase for the sake of showcasing — like the ones on this list from Elite Daily. But to those who are striving to bring about a positive change to your lifestyle, save the anger for the gym.

Write Sophia [email protected].

Correction: An earlier version of this article regretfully insinuated those who promote a healthy lifestyle and are part of the aforementioned Instagram community are a cult of sorts, to be exact. A correction has been added to this online version through the words of Haley Williams, a body builder, which was unintentionally omitted. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience.