There is so much health and fitness information available that it can make your head spin and the sad truth is there is a lot more bad information than quality information. Much of this information has little to do with educating and is really all about marketing a product or service. This abundance of inferior information ends up causing confusion about health and fitness instead of providing the answers people seek, so it becomes important to be able to separate the good information from the bad.
To give an example of a bad source of information, I want to describe a presentation I attended about 10 years ago. It was a lecture by a so-called health and fitness expert, although I had never heard of him and he didn’t speak at professional conferences. However, people apparently paid him to fly all over the country to give his presentation. Anyway, he made references to scientific research throughout his presentation to give credibility to what he was saying, but it was obvious that he had no real understanding of the studies or even how research is conducted.
In addition, he also made factually incorrect statements about how exercise affects the body, among other things. To this day, I still do not know if he simply did not have his facts straight or if he intentionally made untruthful statements, because he was promoting his exercise program and wanted to do everything he could to convince the audience to follow his program.
In any case, it was obvious he was providing inaccurate information, but he was still a successful presenter who was considered by some to be an expert in health and fitness. The audience listened to him because he was a charismatic speaker and was able to cite scientific studies, so he appeared to know what he was talking about. However, there were definite signs that he really just provided bad information in a slick presentation.
The signs I saw are things you can use to separate quality information from manipulative nonsense and fortunately, you don’t need an understanding of research methodology or a degree in exercise physiology to determine if information is useful to you. There are some simple things you can do to separate quality information from manipulative nonsense.
First, do not assume that just because someone is called an expert, that he/she will be a good source of information. Once people accept someone as an expert, they tend to go into a passive listening mode instead of staying in the critical thinking mode they would likely be in if they were not sure about the person. Presenters do their best to establish themselves as an authority and they may quote scientific studies or use advanced terminology just to sound more impressive or convince you that they know what they are talking about.
Even if their information is 100% accurate, it still needs to be presented in a way you can understand and use for yourself. If someone is presenting information in a way that seems strange, then they may be trying to hide the fact that the information is not good or useful. The most important thing to ask yourself when learning about health and fitness is whether or not the information truly makes sense to you and is relevant to your particular goals, needs, and lifestyle.
Another thing to consider is that a lot of health and fitness information is designed to appeal to your emotional desires and manipulate the way you feel, instead of actually educating you. When this is the case, things that sound really good at first end up providing little if any substance when you go back and take a closer look at them.
People who use these tactics often follow up their information with a pressure sale, because they don’t want you to have a chance to think critically about what you were told. With enough time, you will be able to recognize poor quality information for what it really is, usually a manipulative sales pitch. Always remember that quality health and fitness information should be educational and make sense whether you are exposed to it for the first time or the tenth.