Active Lifestyles: Fitspo – Helpful or harmful to your goals?

Hayley Blackburn

I am guilty of it. My Pinterest page includes a board filled with fitsporation that keeps me “motivated” to stay on track. I use the term “motivated” loosely because many of the images I have collected will, frankly, never be me. A dark side to the inspiration of fitness exists, and that dark side might be hurting your confidence, and subsequently, your goals.

As I am looking back through my fitspo, three common categories emerge

1. Just a photo of an insanely beautiful, fit, buff person


Fit poland legs.jpg
A classic objectification ignoring whole-body wellness. Photo credit: Photo courtesy of

2. A photo of that insanely beautiful, fit, buff person with a little quote about not giving up

Work for Strong, Not Skinny.jpg
I am certainly working for strong, but not in those clothes.

3. A quote about believing in yourself with a sunset streaming through the background

quote and sunset.jpg
Don’t get active for the body alone– you are already amazing– get active for the health.

On the surface, each category of fitspo seemed like innocent motivation towards my ideal self. However. when I looked closer, I began to realize what my fitspo was actually saying.

The photo of the insanely beautiful, fit, buff person ignores the very real, lasting reasons to get healthy.

Constantly looking at images of bodies emphasizes exercising to look hot. Of course, looking great naked is a cherry on top of an active lifestyle, but we need to focus on the HEALTH. I feel better now that I am active. My ability to focus and perform in school has improved now that I am active. My immune system is stronger. Everything about my body feels better (except after leg day… then my legs feel like they are falling off). The point is, fitspo that only places a photo of someone else’s body in your mind ignores the list of amazing reasons to be active and healthy.

Do it or you don't.jpg
Things may be more complicated than this image makes it seem.


True, giving up will not give any results, but getting the body behind the quote involves a lot more than not “eating so much crap.”

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Plus genetics, and time, and hard work…


Similarly to the fashion industry, fitspo and fitness models do not offer a realistic image of fitness for the average person. I do not look like any of these fitness models despite going to the gym 5-6 days a week, meticulously tracking 1,100 calories a day, and living a much stricter lifestyle than most people. Honestly, I don’t want to do what it takes to achieve the results in the fitspo — it is too much. I want to go out with my friends on the weekends and eat a pizza once in awhile. When I realized how much more strict I would need to be and how much more time I would need to spend in the gym to get remotely close to the body of a professional fitness model, I stopped obsessing over being them. My life and my goals are not theirs.

Text with a nice background is my new favorite type of fitspo.

I can apply the quote to my life without any preconceived images of what will happen. I can internalize the quote, like a mantra in my head, to keep me motivated and pushing forward. I can focus on what my body, and my body only, will achieve.

This is the background on my phone, so I can “remember how” all day long.


In the end, we all need a little motivation. Admiring the hard work that someone else put in is not a bad thing; however, comparing yourself to someone else can be. Your goals are not theirs. You don’t know what they had to go through to get that body. Instead of imagining yourself achieving those unrealistic results, focus on what you can do to improve your health and wellness while fitting into your own unique life.


This is an ongoing challenge: every time you find yourself wishing you had their body, think instead about the positive aspects of your own body and how hard you have worked. I challenge you to be your own fitsporation because you are capable of incredible things.

Collegian writer Hayley Blackburn can be reached at or on Twitter @hayley_blckbrn. If you have a specific question or topic, let her know. Leave a comment!