I’ve had multiple subscriptions to multiple gyms, but after a few months I just had no motivation to continue going. I was either too busy or too tired, which were really just excuses to really make the effort of going to the gym. After the last gym I went to opened again after lockdown, there were barely any spots left to reserve and I kind of felt self-conscious and awkward in the gyms. So to escape the so called ‘gymtimidation’, I decided to try out Youtube workouts.
Popularity over the years
Following workouts at home is nothing new. Since the 1980s there were workout tapes on cassettes to watch at home and in later years there were DVDs and TV shows about working out. ‘Nederland in beweging!’ is still broadcasted every morning from Monday through Friday as we speak.
So I tumbled down the Fitness Youtubers rabbit hole and I stuck to a few creators like Chloe Ting, Lucy Wyndham-Read and Blogilates. Workout and exercise videos are a bit hit on Youtube, there are more than 30 million fitness videos on Youtube. And the thing is, it actually motivated me to keep exercising. Different videos meant different exercises to keep it varied and I didn’t really have to think too much about which exercises I was going to do. All within the privacy of my own room.
Selling a lie?
The success of these fitness Youtubers has been partly credited to the fact that most of the time, it isn’t just a exercise routine you’re watching. In what can be argued as a form of parasocial relationship, people look up to fitness Youtubers. Some of these Youtubers are also vloggers or have other content besides fitness.
The fact that fitness Youtubers give advice during their videos has been one of the things they have been criticized for. Chloe Ting for example, who considered leaving the platform after dealing with fellow creators and companies criticizing her for ‘promoting a dangerous lifestyle’ and an ‘unattainable body’. While that may be a little over the top, there is a point in the clickbait titles that many Youtubers use like ‘Get abs in 2 weeks!’. These videos will most likely bring some results for people that are dieting with a calorie deficit, but it is a little misleading in my opinion. Most of the fitness influencers do put disclaimers on their videos, but they aren’t always obvious. I found that this video from Justine Ercole sums it up quite well.
Like with other versions of influencers, there has also been some criticism about the marketing deals fitness Youtubers are promoting. Especially promoting workout supplements or diet pills. Michelle Lewin was criticized for promoting ‘extremely dangerous’ weigh loss pills that would still allow you to indulge in food.
So there are good and bad sides to this industry, but I personally am not so invested in the people behind the workout videos that I have felt deceived about titles or was tempted to buy supplements. I am happy for the fact that there is a large and steady supply of workout videos for me to try. Have you successfully completed workout videos and what do you think of fitness Youtubers?
I love that you wrote a blog about this, because I struggled for years with these ‘5 minute abs’ , ‘Get a thigh gap in 4 weeks’ video’s when I was younger. I used to follow a bunch of fitness Youtubers and follow along with their workouts. Only after I started watching commentary and opinion video’s like Justine Ercole’s about fitness, I found out what the truth behind ‘Get abs in 3 weeks’ is about. Very interesting!
I can definitely relate to this myself- esp. during quarantine. I feel like these videos further propelled this idea that we all had to become our best selves after being locked inside our houses…quite unrealistic both in terms of change and the 2-week abs. I believe the surge in this sort of content was at its prime during quarantine too, influencers promoting their PAID courses to get a ‘new body’ in 3 weeks. Great blog!
This is a lovely blogpost, since it is so relatable on many levels. For many years already, I have always pushed myself to do home workouts with YouTube videos (I wasn’t very consistent though). Especially now that going to the gym gets trickier it is the perfect way to stay fit and still get some sort of advice. The greatest benefit is that there is so much content you can just choose exactly what you want and follow the workout for it.
Nevertheless, as you also address in your post, there is also this huge problem of clickbait and promotions. My teenage-self would try all these “perfect body shape in 3 days” videos and also fall for the products which they then try to sell. Fortunately, I am not fooled by these anymore. The best first step is probably to go for the videos which don’t have a clickbaity title.
During the beginning of the Covid lockdown in 2020 my friends and I agreed that we would follow one of Chloe Ting’s workout routines for a month. I did the ab and glute workout I think but I gave up after a week.
I absolutely get that people feel motivated by these YouTube fitness videos to continue working out at home because most of them use bodyweight exercises of equipment that you can find around the house. For me it was quite the opposite. As a weight- and powerlifter most of my workouts are with weights, barbells and machines and that cannot be found in those videos.
Another factor that I can’t find at home with these fitness videos is having workout buddies. Friends who are doing the same exercises or working towards the same goal, hyping you up. That is also a big part of my motivation.
I also think that these videos can be overwhelming or misleading in the sense that if you are not familiar with working out or workout programs/progress you have no idea if you are doing the right exercises or making any progress.