TikTok has become a source of workout routines and health-related content for many, especially younger Americans. The platform’s fitness category, known as FitTok, boasts an impressive 300 billion views. However, recent studies suggest that caution is necessary when considering the safety and effectiveness of the workouts, exercises, and challenges posted on these platforms.
A study published in BMC Public Health in 2023 revealed that nearly two-thirds of the top “fitspiration” accounts on Instagram lacked credible information. Another analysis of 1,000 TikTok posts related to food, nutrition, and weight loss, published in PLOS One, found weight-normative content that glorified weight loss. Despite fitness influencers encouraging physical activity, concerns arise regarding the accuracy and quality of the content, as highlighted in a 2022 review in Frontiers in Public Health.
Certified personal trainer Jess Brown from The Glute Recruit in Westchester, New York, warns of potentially unsafe and unrealistic workouts on TikTok. Monica Jones, a certified personal trainer in Washington, DC, adds that TikTok fitness information often lacks scientific backing and is not necessarily posted by fitness professionals. Generalized workouts that do not consider individual health factors, family history, flexibility, or range of motion are prevalent on the platform.
Popular TikTok videos, especially those promising rapid weight loss or specific physique changes in a short time frame, are flagged as problematic by experts. Brown emphasizes the unrealistic nature of workouts guaranteeing quick results, often targeting people’s insecurities for click-bait purposes.
Notably, trends like “ab-shred” challenges promising a sexy six-pack through daily exercises are debunked by Brown, who emphasizes the lack of scientific support for spot reduction and the difficulty of reducing body fat in the abdominal area.
One especially dangerous TikTok fitness trend, “dry scooping,” involves consuming pre-workout powder without mixing it with water. Experts warn against this practice due to potential respiratory or cardiovascular distress, emphasizing its association with an instant gratification culture.
Despite these concerns, one TikTok workout trend called “12-3-30,” involving walking on a treadmill at a 12% incline for 30 minutes, is considered relatively safe by experts. However, caution is advised to avoid potential tension in the lower back or joint pressure.
To differentiate between quality workouts and dangerous fads, experts recommend checking the credentials of fitness influencers, ensuring they are certified professionals emphasizing overall health. A balanced approach to fitness, including mental well-being and self-care, is a key indicator of a quality influencer. For personalized guidance, direct collaboration with a certified personal trainer is recommended over relying solely on social media content.