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Reject fitness conformity

A group of gym women.

I watched an interesting video on YouTube the other day.

Conformity, an episode of the Mind Field series by educator and social media celebrity Michael Stevens is about how conformity works in society and how what is sometimes called social pressure is so powerful.

In the programme, Gestalt psychologist Stevens conducts a social experiment that mirrors the Asche conformity experiments of the 1950s as conducted by Solomon Asche, and which used similar experimental techniques to open up the issue of social conformity for discussion. The Asche experiments themselves became very influential (famous, even) and their effects have been felt to the present day when social media and the impact of the smartphone has only increased the social pressure on our lives.

I think this is especially true for the young and for those who are sensitive to their physical or personal appearance.

In the world of fitness and personal training, the importance of physical appearance is never far from the surface of discussion or debate. There are also whole disciplines of personal training dedicated to helping clients lose weight, gain muscle or appear younger or stronger than they may initially appear. Sometimes these disciplines can appear quick-win for (potential) clients, though in my experience they are rarely so, and occasionally they can even turn out to be dangerous to the long-term health of the person involved.

When I work with clients it is always about the long-term fitness of the client and how they can achieve healthy goals concerning their physique and their health. Fortuitously this also happens to cross over into the palm of physical appearance and the apparent vitality of the person so concerned.

One thing that also struck me when watching Conformity is how the pressure to conform also works in the physical training arena and concerning how people exercise.

Sometimes this pressure can be to do with fashion and the latest (usually online) fitness or workout trend that has caught the attention of the public. Sometimes it can be more about proponents of the fitness sector peddling tried and tested formulas for long-established physical fitness concerns (the losing/gaining dilemma once again).

But there is an equal danger in falling almost mechanically back on fitness programmes and exercise routines that are well-established and used the world over. Where fashionable fitness programmes can carry risks to the individual due to their lack of empirical evidence, dated ways of working out can also be the wrong exercises to follow simply because the needs of the individual get lost in the technical form-fitting process.

So, instead of latching onto whatever everyone is talking about in the gym or simply hitting the weights for 4 x 10 repetitions, begin instead by considering individual needs and goals, timescales, vulnerabilities and the appetite of the individual where working out is concerned. That way the workout so selected will be reali