As a fitness professional, I am dedicated to consistently possessing cutting edge fitness knowledge obtained through review of empirical research ensuring that our clientele are the beneficiaries of this valuable knowledge. However, since the internet has become so prevalent, the general public has access to a wealth of information, much of which may be inaccurate. This information hooks the reader who wants to hear of the next “break through” which will enable them to lose weight without effort, keep it off for life and all for little personal economic investment!
Since this is unlikely, spending your time expanding your fitness knowledge through reputable resources is far more productive. Understanding research methods comprehensively is not within the scope of this column. However, this week, a series of seven simple guidelines for vetting research will be highlighted. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.
Guideline #1 Caveat Emptor! “Let the Buyer Beware” is a great rule of thumb. If it sounds too good to be true, that is probably the case, so run for the hills! Examples would be when the claims include extreme weight loss or girth measurement loss in a short period time, or increases in muscle mass that are unrealistic as muscle mass building takes a considerable amount of time. Another claim may include that you only need this ONE piece of equipment and it will “do it all”. There is no one piece of equipment that does it all!
Guideline #2 Who funded the research? If the manufacturer or vendor that is selling the product or service, conducted or funded the research, this may be a big red flag. If they have a “dog in the fight”, it may be prudent to walk away.
Guideline #3 Seek out consumer-based organizations, such as IDEA Health and Fitness, Inc. who fund research that is conducted on well-respected university campuses and in bona fide exercise physiology laboratories, who follow valid research methods, as your resource for accurate fitness information.
Guideline #4 Once you have access to IDEA, then you may input the category of fitness you have interest in investigating. Hundreds of articles, journals, videos, which feature top-tier fitness experts whose goal is to educate, motivate, coach and train their clients to achieve their fitness results, are available.
Guideline #5 Ask your fitness professional to provide you with articles and research to validate what they discuss in group exercise classes and training sessions. If they genuinely have your best interest at heart, they will be delighted to share this information with you.
Guideline #6 Remember the difference between a correlation, which may imply cause and effect (this situation causes the specific effect), association, indicating there may be some connection between one outcome and another, which may not be causal, and conjecture. Conjecture is someone speaking/writing about a topic, drawing conclusions that they may or may not have adequate data to support.
Guideline #7 Research the researchers! Instead of taking a researcher’s word for the information provided, conduct your own detective work on the researcher to determine the validity of their credentials and how those credentials are relevant to the research. And, as mentioned in #2, “do they have a dog in the fight”?