Pretty soon, gyms might start losing their members. With Wifi, a smartphone and a bit of floor space at home, you can now YouTube your way to fitness.
Or can you really?
Last week, a friend of mine called, complaining of knee pain.
Not a fitness buff, and after giving birth to two lovely children, she had piled on more than 30kg and decided it was time she shed the excesses to usher in her 50th birthday in 2019.
Due to her size, she was too intimidated to sign up for a gym membership or hire a personal trainer. Not a nature lover either, she opted to learn from the Net.
As a newbie embarking on an exercise programme, the poor woman had no clue which videos were suitable for her except that she wanted quick results. Body awareness and alignment were furthest from her mind.
Monkey see, monkey do – you’ve heard the term before.
What happens? The chimp gets injured, of course!
Today, there are more than two billion free fitness videos on YouTube channels and countless more on social media platforms devoted to everything from weightlifting to aerobics, high intensity interval training, yoga, Pilates and more.
A lot of these videos have a tendency to make false claims that delude beginner followers into thinking they can transform their bodies just by doing 10 minutes of something (e.g. trimming, toning, tightening, etc) a day.
Or a four-minute workout that replaces one hour in the gym.
If only it were that easy, we’d all be looking like super toned models.
Better yet, I found one with three million views that suggests a workout before sleep to slim down the legs. All it takes is three minutes and you can do it in bed.
Midway through the exercise, the commentator asks, “Are you sweating and feeling the burn? That’s a good sign!”
Do you really want to sweat in bed performing non-intimate activities when you should be relaxing before drifting off to sleep?
My friend diligently followed a six-minute one that had 20 million views.
I took a look and it wasn’t too bad. You needed to perform the routine three times a week.
The problem: it wasn’t intended for beginners (although it claims to address beginners) because the host was obviously targeting the fit to get fitter. And you would have to have some knowledge of muscle groups to work efficiently.
For example, when words like “strengthen your quads and hams” are mentioned, the majority of netizens have no clue what muscles these are and where they are located. There were a series of squats and push-ups thrown in the mix.
Being a novice, the friend tried to follow as much as she could because she was motivated by how easy the instructor made it look.
Three months later was when I received her “busted-knee” call. She had a slight tear of both her knee ligaments (meniscus).
On the positive side, she managed to lose 4.5kg, so hooray for that. However, she has to wait until her knees heal before resuming exercise again.
YouTube videos do not allow the instructor to see you, check your form, and offer modifications or corrections based on your performance.
This means you could inadvertently perform exercises incorrectly, or even unsafely, without knowing it.
This is particularly concerning for beginners and those recovering from injuries, as they’re more likely to perform exercises incorrectly, especially squats and planks.
Fitness is a burgeoning industry, online or offline. There is tons of money to be made and stars to be uncovered.
These days, unlike the traditional workout video, where weight loss and fitness was the goal, consumers are logging on to their favourite fitness vloggers for a more intimate and interactive experience.
According to Flurry Insights, which analyses mobile app data, health and fitness app usage rose 62% in the first half of 2014, and it’s growing at a rate 87% faster than that of other industries.
A 2015 study by researchers at the New York University School of Medicine revealed that more than half of all smartphone users had downloaded a fitness or health app.
Yet, our society continues to be obese.
Before you get started on a new fitness regimen, get clearance from your doctor about what’s safe for you and your size. This is especially important if you’re pregnant, injured, ill, or have limited mobility for whatever reason.
Don’t wait till you bust a body part.