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'We need to be really concerned': How fitness influencers are creating 'a false sense of the world' for young boys

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'We need to be really concerned': How fitness influencers are creating 'a false sense of the world' for young boys

“Alright dumba**, welcome to lesson two here at fat f*** university.”

So begins one of the countless fleshy blurs of locally-produced fitness content pumped algorithmically into the feeds of Australian Instagram, TikTok and Facebook users.

It’s the sort of engagement-baiting approach that yields viewers and followers — designed to push men out of some apparent masculine malaise and into retaking control of their body and masculinity, usually via paid workout programs, products or supplements. 

It’s also the type of content increasingly filtering into the phones of teenage boys.

Meme culture is a big part of fitness and gym content.(Supplied: Instagram)
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While there is a more developed conversation about idealised images on social media and body image pressures on young girls, experts say research is less advanced when it comes to boys.

“I think boys are now objectifying themselves like never before and we do need to be really concerned,” said Danielle Rowland, Head of Prevention at national eating disorder charity the Butterfly Foundation.

“The intensity of training advice, nutrition and misinformation is greater than ever.”

Feeds serving up different diet 

When Anthony Lee started high school in regional Victoria six years ago, social media had a different feel to it.

“In Year 7, it was just basically a way to keep up with your mates,” he said.

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Young man wearing white shirt stands in dappled light beneath tree with river and grassy banks in the backgrounf

Anthony Lee says social media came to mean something very different by the end of high school.(ABC News: Jeremy Story Carter)

By the time he finished Year 12 last year, the feeds of his classmates had changed. So too, the surrounding culture.

“There is a growing problem with men having that feed of perfect body content,” he said.

“There are people who will see influencers on social media and say, ‘I’ve got to have bigger arms, toned legs, I got to have calves the size of mountains’.”

Two screenshots of instagram posts featuring content by young men about going to the gym

Engaging with fitness content online will generally see a user receive more and more of that type of content.(Supplied: Instagram)
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Linger on one Instagram reel showing off a set of dumbbell exercises, and you’ll likely get five more videos zeroing in on how to get “boulder shoulders”, or some protein-heavy diet advice from a shirtless influencer.

Josh Ward travels to schools in Sydney and around regional NSW, hearing from young boys as part of his work as a facilitator for men’s mental health organisation Tomorrow Man.

“There’s been a huge jump in the last two to three years in the amount of boys opening up in workshops around their body,” he said. 

Man stands at front of classroom presenting to group of young boys seated on plastic chairs.

Tomorrow Man facilitator Josh Ward runs school workshops around ideas of masculinity and mental health.(Supplied: Josh Ward)

Mr Ward believes there’s no coincidence it’s occurred alongside a “big spike” in the amount of fitness and gym influencer content turning up in their feeds. 

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“If someone was in school walking around with a fitness mag in their pocket, bringing it out every recess or lunch, you’d think ‘that is some strange behaviour’. But that’s what [teenage boys] are celebrating now,” he said.

“The danger for young people is they don’t realise they’re actually the pioneer generation in terms of that exposure.

“In the last five years there’s been a crazy amount of fitness content, but that’s just what they’ve always been exposed to, so they don’t realise how strange it is.”

‘It creates a false sense of the world’

For many teenage boys on the path through puberty, working out in gyms has long represented an accelerated part of the journey into manhood.

Images of muscle-ripped celebrities and athletes serving as aesthetic inspiration, if not an unattainable physical ideal, is nothing new either. 

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A man rests with his hands on the floor of a gym, with dumbbells near him and a woman walking past.

Going to the gym can be an important and healthy part of puberty for teenage boys.(ABC News: John Gunn)

But it’s the nature of that exposure — the type of content and the saturation of it — that has experts concerned. 

“It’s that ‘in-your-face, all-the-time’ aspect of it,” said Associate Professor Ivanka Prichard from Flinders University.

“It’s seeing something on Instagram when we’re perhaps not in that frame of mind, making a comparison to this really fit person and have that influence the way we might feel about ourselves.

“We’re fed a whole range of things through those algorithms that we would never have had exposure to before and would never have sought out.”

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Two screenshots of instagram posts featuring content by young men about going to the gym

Experts report seeing digitally altered and AI-generated images in fitness content.(Supplied: Instagram)

Multiple experts the ABC spoke to reported seeing digitally-altered and even AI-generated images of supposedly naturally-fit bodies on social media.

Ms Prichard, a former fitness instructor whose research sits at the intersection of psychology, social media and exercise science, believes the constant barrage of perfectly sculpted bodies could destabilise the mental health of some teenage boys.

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Fitness

How astronauts exercise to stay fit and healthy in space

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How astronauts exercise to stay fit and healthy in space

Space, the final frontier…for human exercise and fitness? That might not be the catchphrase you’re used to, but it’s increasingly relevant as astronauts set sights on the Moon, Mars, and beyond. 

A pressing question hangs in the air (or rather, the vacuum of space): How do we keep astronauts healthy and strong in the face of microgravity’s bone and muscle-weakening effects?

Thankfully, the International Space Station (ISS) has become a unique laboratory for research in this area. And what they’re learning isn’t just helping astronauts; it could revolutionize how we approach fitness right here on Earth.

Why astronauts need to exercise

Before we strap on our space boots and hit the cosmic gym, let’s understand the challenge. On Earth, gravity constantly provides resistance, keeping our bones and muscles strong. 

But in space, that resistance vanishes. The result? Bones become brittle, muscles atrophy, and astronauts risk returning to Earth weaker than when they left.

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The solution is exercise, but not the usual jog around the block. In space, exercise equipment has advanced from simple elastic bands to sophisticated machines that simulate weightlifting and cardio in a weightless environment.

ARED: Space station’s weightlifting wonder

One such marvel is the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED), the ISS’s very own weight room. Using a clever piston and flywheel system, ARED simulates the resistance of lifting weights on Earth.

And the benefits are clear. Research shows that preflight training with ARED improves astronauts’ performance in space, similar to how athletes train for competition. 

Results have shown that preflight exercise training improves an individual’s performance while on the space station just as pre-season training helps athletes in later competition.

CEVIS: Pedaling astronaut exercise

Next, we have CEVIS, the Cycle Ergometer with Vibration Isolation and Stabilization System. This high-tech stationary bike uses friction and resistance to provide astronauts with a challenging cardio workout. It’s like a Peloton for the cosmos.

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However, data from CEVIS has also raised several questions. It suggests that even with current exercise countermeasures, up to 17% of astronauts could still experience muscle, bone, and heart health issues on future missions. 

The researchers note that this highlights the need to further refine current regimens, add other interventions, or enhance conditioning preflight.

This revelation emphasizes the ongoing need for innovation and improvement in astronaut fitness regimes.

Sprint: High-intensity revolution

In the early days of space exploration, astronauts spent hours each week on low-intensity exercise, with disappointing results. 

Despite spending up to 10 hours per week exercising, astronauts continued to lose muscle mass and bone density.

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Then came a game-changer: the Integrated Resistance and Aerobic Training Study (Sprint). This study showed that short, high-intensity workouts were just as effective as longer, low-intensity ones. 

The bonus? Less wear and tear on the equipment and more time for astronauts to focus on their mission.

Measuring the microgravity impact

To understand the true impact of space on the body, scientists have delved into the molecular level. The VO2max investigation revealed that long-duration spaceflight significantly decreases astronauts’ aerobic capacity. 

These results have important implications for future long-duration space missions, adding to the evidence that current countermeasures may not be adequate.

Meanwhile, the Muscle Biopsy study identified a potential biomarker for muscle health. The findings suggest that current exercise protocols are effective in preventing muscle de-conditioning.

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They also support improvements in countermeasures to protect crew health and performance on future deep space exploration missions.

Future of astronaut exercise

As we plan for longer missions to the Moon and Mars, astronaut fitness remains a top priority. Research continues to refine the ideal combination of diet, exercise, and medication to keep astronauts healthy in space and upon their return to Earth.

While current exercise programs appear to moderate changes in musculoskeletal systems, individual results vary. 

In addition, current regimens cannot directly transfer to longer exploration missions due to space constraints, environmental issues such as removal of heat and moisture, device maintenance and repair needs, and the challenges of finding time for exercise and avoiding interference with the work of other crew members.

But the benefits extend beyond the cosmos. The lessons learned from astronaut fitness research could help people on Earth who suffer from bone and muscle loss due to aging, illness, or sedentary lifestyles.

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Space fitness is Earth fitness

So, while astronauts are pushing the boundaries of human fitness in the extreme environment of space, their efforts are benefiting us all. 

The next time you hit the gym, remember that the exercises you’re doing might have been inspired by research conducted hundreds of miles above your head.

Whether you’re an astronaut preparing for a mission to Mars or a couch potato looking to get in shape, the message is clear: Exercise is essential for maintaining a healthy body, no matter where you are in the universe.

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Fitness

Best Rowing Machines of 2024 – CNET

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Best Rowing Machines of 2024 – CNET

When using a rowing machine, it’s key to practice good form if you want to get the most out of the workout. It’s helpful to have a rowing instructor or trainer familiar with the machine to teach you the correct way to row.

Catch, Drive, Recovery: It’s important to learn the four key steps to rowing. These are the catch, drive, finish and recovery. Peloton rowing instructor, Alex Karwoski says your starting position should look like this: “Starting from the fully compressed position — your arms should be outstretched, body pivoted forward at a slight angle, and knees close to your chest.” From here you want to push with the legs to drive the seat and handle away from the screen. Karwoski explains, “for the first third to half of the drive, our legs are doing the majority of the work while our arms and body are braced and holding the pressure.” Then, as the shins come to about 45 degrees to the floor, the body swing starts. He says the key to the body swing is to think about “adding momentum” to the handle. The legs started moving the internal flywheel, and this is where the legs and body can work in conjunction to further accelerate the flywheel. “Finally, our arms get involved right at the end of the stroke and we pull the handle all the way into the chest,” he says. Once all of that is completed, you start the recovery phase of the stroke, which is just the opposite and the arms move away from the body first, followed by the body pivoting forward, and the legs compress to return to the catch.

Don’t misuse the drag factor: The drag factor is usually featured as a dampener handle on a traditional rower. On more modern rowers, such as some of the ones mentioned on this list, it’s included within the software. “Most people assume that moving this from, for example, the three to the 10 makes the machine harder, but what is really does is simply increase the rate at which the flywheel slows down and thereby causes the stroke to feel heavier because now it is as if you are rowing through molasses rather than water,” explains Karwoski. In other words, avoid mistaking the “drag factor” for “speed level” or “intensity.”

Know what the main measurement is: The main unit being measured when you row is output. Karwoski explains that when you row, each stroke takes a certain amount of time so the work being measured is the force applied to move the flywheel. He says, “from the output, we can derive the split, which is given in terms of time it would take to row 500 meters at your given output and distance.” Another metric to look at is the stroke rate, which is the number of strokes you will take, if you hold your current rhythm, in a minute. ”I encourage people to focus on output because that is the big number usually right in the middle of the screen,” Karwoski said. But keep in mind that different rowing machines have different metrics that are highlighted, but ultimately it’s about how much force you can apply through the drive to move the flywheel.

Rowing precautions: As with any form of exercise, it’s important to get clearance from your doctor if you have health concerns or are pregnant. “If you are returning from an injury — and that injury doesn’t prohibit you from sitting on a rowing machine — the rowing motion can be a gentler way to restart your cardiovascular fitness,” said Peloton rowing instructor Katie Wang. This is a good way to get the benefits of a cardio workout while caring for your joints and knees.

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Fitness

Gut health: Exercise, fermented food, sleep are crucial steps to strengthen your microbiota

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Gut health: Exercise, fermented food, sleep are crucial steps to strengthen your microbiota
Gut health: There is an intricate relationship between gut health and overall health. Gut health may be involved in various mental health, gastrointestinal, and neurological disorders. Simple alterations in diet and lifestyle can strengthen your gut microbes, helping you live a healthy life and prevent many diseases.
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