When Danielle Knox had her son two years ago, she found the motivation to exercise at home thanks to a small but mighty competitor in the fitness space.
“I’ve really come so far over the past two and a half years with my training, getting in shape and trying to live a healthier lifestyle, all the way through social media,” Ms Knox said. .
She is one of thousands of Australians who turn to fitness influencers for health and wellness content to implement into their daily lives.
A “fitness influencer” creates content – including workout inspiration, food blogs, “daily” videos and product promotion – often gets paid for posts on platforms such as Instagram and TikTok .
Ms Knox said that through influencers she had found a community of other down-to-earth mums and women around the world who had inspired her.
“I find it helps me juggle my fitness and be a mom, thanks to that responsibility and that motivation and inspiration that these influencers give me,” Ms Knox said.
“It’s amazing where we are now and the access we have online, everything is at your fingertips and that’s one of the great things about social media.
“I have to say, I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for following these influencers and following their programs.”
The number of online creators in Australia has increased by almost 50% to six million since the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Australian Computer Society.
That’s nearly one in four people in Australia.
“Anyone can come out and pretend to be an expert”
While the experience was positive for Ms Knox, experts say the dangers of unrealistic ideals and unqualified information sharing can be harmful.
Crystal Abidin, Professor of Internet Studies at Curtin University, has spent the past 15 years understanding social media and, more recently, influencers.
She said some content available online was concerning.
“We are now at the point in a very mature influencer industry, where some fitness influencers, unfortunately, are also peddling rather unrealistic ideal outcomes, or even very harmful types of behaviors,” Professor Abidin said.
“Anyone and everyone can come out and claim to be an expert on something and then promote a cause or a message.
“Body enhancements – whether through drugs, traditional means, injections – also become a health concern when the body image you have in mind does not match what happens as a result of your efforts.”
“There is so much valuable content out there”
However, Canberra’s Maurine Magka says her Instagram presence, and many others like her, can help not get in the way.
With over 13 years in the fitness industry as a qualified personal trainer, she started sharing educational content online in order to reach more people.
She said the main goals of her Instagram page – which has nearly 63,000 followers – were to be realistic and get those followers into the gym.
“[Going to the gym] can be so scary. So I think we as influencers have the power to create an access point for people,” Ms. Magka said.
“If we can show what it really looks like, be positive and inviting, then someone might feel comfortable enough to actually start [going to the gym].
“The way the industry is changing, in terms of body acceptance and body image, there’s so much valuable content out there.”
It’s a sentiment that Ms. Knox agrees with. She says her fitness journey is limitless, thanks to online platforms.
“They’re a big part of what keeps me going and keeps me motivated.”