Science empowers women in the fitness industry – and here’s why


One of the biggest things still holding back the fitness industry today is the attitude surrounding women’s fitness and fat loss, and how information is transmitted to young girls scrolling through Instagram. Whether it be unsolicited advice telling them that hours of cardio is key (untrue), or reminding girls that lifting weights will result in them looking like some giant green creature from the panels of the Marvel comics (also, very untrue).

Indeed, even on Instagram today, when you look at various bloggers, trainers, or just plain social media starlets, it can be hard to tell what is an effective, science-based workout that gives you results – and what is actually a whole lot of rubbish!

While it’s amazing that female empowerment and strength are slowly but surely being encouraged in the social media hemisphere, it’s important to distinguish between the well intentions of flashy videos and images and the truly helpful advice that will help you get to your goals. The science behind female fat loss is absolutely fascinating, and truth be told I’ve been obsessed with it lately; listening to podcasts, reading scientific literature, and applying all this knowledge to my own routine and that of my clients’.

Unfortunately, the instantaneous artistry of social media can take away from the science.  In my opinion, to really transform your physique, and open your mind, you should understand the science behind it all. Facts should replace the fitness models and trainers pushing themselves for a 30 second video shot, or posing gratuitously in front of a barbell (guilty as charged!). This is by no means a bad thing – in fact, social media gives us the power to be inspired and empowered. To be drawn into an entire new world by images and video alone, which can shake us up from our very core and get us to the gym, determined to try a new workout, push ourselves to our limit, and share our session with the community that we consciously partake in via  Instagram. These are all amazing things, and by no means do I nor ever will dismiss such a positive contribution to our society! However, whatever happened to bringing back science? Making nerdy being cool again? Taking the time to write out a post mentioning some industry heavyweights or research papers that might make people go, “that’s so interesting, I never thought the human body could respond like that from nutrition/training!” could actually put them on the path to stronger self-confidence.

Indeed, women’s fat loss is so complicated it could warrant an entire Instagram account of its own! And this is where my original point comes in – it is rare to see science-based training in mainstream social media; it’s as if that ‘fear’ of bulking up still exists. Many accounts will still use the term ‘tone up’ coupled with some bodyweight exercises and calisthenics, which is absolutely fantastic in that it encourages people to get active, but if someone really wants life-changing results, this sort of advice may fall short of the mark.

Instead, being part of the fitness industry should impart upon people like myself, a sense of responsibility; happy to share juicy details of the science; why we train this why and not that; why less carbs during a certain part of a woman’s menstrual cycle, and so on. This may not be as glamorous as showcasing your jump squats in a dimly-lit, trendy London fitness studio, but it’s honest, helpful, and gets women thinking about their fitness path and it empowers them with the knowledge to transform their physique beyond the generic advice given. And, I think it’s a progressive way of empowering women; yes, we love to look at beautiful, chic, sleek images of active wear, which inspires confidence within us and makes us train harder; yes, we love to train with our best friend in a fun, bootcamp-style which leaves us sweaty and tomato-faced, but it isn’t necessarily scientific; but hey, we can also handle the cold facts, the rigorous process of fat loss and muscle building; the discussion of research papers on strength and conditioning which help illuminate our mind and give us the learning tools to adjust our own programming rather than rely on other people to create it for us. In short, we are just as interested in the brains behind the making of the brawn; it makes us more confident with our diet and exercise. It gives us the independence and autonomy of pushing ourselves with science on our side, and above all, it makes us calmer, more at peace with ourselves knowing that what we are doing is working and will work. When we trust the process, we fall in love with the process; we go and see our friends for a studio class or green juice, we add balance to our lives, we post inspiring content on social media, or support others who do the same, creating a community of endless positivity, wisdom and support. When we are at peace with what we are doing, backed up by the fact that it is evidence-based, we can begin to thrive outside the realm of science and hard numbers; it becomes something holistic, almost spiritual.

img_3580I absolutely love the sense of community and inspiration being fed out in social media right now, and promoting science-based fitness will ensure we enhance it for everyone involved. Even if it just means taking ten minutes of your day to pop on a podcast, research the biggest names of the industry right now, or find out more about the anatomy of the body and why certain exercises are better for women. Anything you do which is backed by evidence and facts will support and uphold the holistic, positive side to the industry tenfold. As one of my favourite thinkers Carl Sagan once said; “The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.” They are both required to enjoy and appreciate each other, and so with this we can combine the more artistic, inspiring side of social media through filmography, images and beautiful quotes, coupled with the evidence-based path which will get people results, and therefore a better sense of self. We women deserve this empowerment in an industry which attempts to feed off of our insecurities – so let’s roll up our sleeves, get our lab coats on (optional!), and discover and pass on the fascinating process of sports and strength and conditioning science and nutrition.

By Sophie Thomas, Associate Personal Trainer at Dan Roberts