So I received an interesting question: why are so many fitness influencers, professionals, and enthusiasts seemingly anti-vax?
Given my lengthy tenure in the industry — and because the guy asked me — I offered MY opinion on the question.
First, some context. Not ALL fitness pros/influencers/enthusiasts think the same way.
Next, there are plenty who are pro childhood vax but are against or skeptical of the “warp speed”-produced Covid vaccine.
Then, there are some who:
- feel it’s being forced upon them;
- are distrustful of government or at least have no confidence in it when it comes to their health;
- lost SO MUCH due to the lockdowns (fitness was HAMMERED) and just want agency over their own health & happiness;
- think the messaging since day one has been terrible—and, well, I think most everyone can agree with that.
Back to the question at hand: why are so many fitness folks anti-vax?
1. Distrust of medical industry after poor care (usually for niche or non-life threatening issues)
Probably every female client I’ve had has complained of their physician not taking their concerns seriously. Sadly, this often leads to Facebook, Instagram, Dr. Google, Dr. Mercola, and Joyce over in accounting becoming their go-to for health advice.
But it’s dudes, too. Ever ask your doc for a testosterone check and you get is an eye roll or, worse, get told “you’re normal, see you next year”?
Happens ALL the time. And It sucks.
But keep in mind, your doctors main concern is keeping you alive. And if they see hundreds of patients a week in dire condition, your goal to get more muscular or perform better might seem trivial.
It’s lame but you have options. Change doctors. See one specializing in optimal health and a “food/exercise/lifestyle first” perspective. Just not a flake. Do your homework.
2. The medical industry rarely promotes diet & exercise as medicine.
Theres truth to this. You’ve heard it before: “My doc didn’t even ask about what I eat, he just pulled out his Rx pad.”
But context is key. If a younger healthy person has slightly abnormal lipids, the doc SHOULD address diet and exercise before writing a script for Crestor.
An older person with awful labs and a bunch of compounding factors? Not the same thing.
So if the average person wasn’t such a disaster maybe docs could focus more on letting food be thy medicine?
Or perhaps if docs focused on letting food be thy medicine the average person wouldn’t be such a disaster?
3. Inadequate education (PTs aren’t virologists)
Fitness pros are basically like Joe Rogan:
Most are bright, passionate, personable (I said most), and due to their diverse clientele may know more than average about a lot of subjects.
However, their zone of TRUE expertise, where education meets experience, is decidedly narrow: exercise and programming, body composition management, basic diet. Stuff like that.
Most everything else (including virology, immunology, infectious diseases, etc.), for all that stuff let’s just say their opinions, while passionate, are decidedly less informed.
Not that you NEED to be an expert to have an opinion.
But an opinion without expertise is just like, well, your opinion man.
A basis for discussion, sure. Not facts and definitely not policy.
4. Confirmation Bias/Cognitive dissonance.
The following psychological principles are HUGE in the fitness world, but also society at large.
Confirmation bias: the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one’s prior beliefs and minimizes contradictory evidence.
Shit. That ain’t right. Sounds counterproductive. Why the hell would anyone do that?
Cognitive dissonance occurs when newly acquired information conflicts with pre-existing understandings, causing discomfort.
Oh. THAT’S why.
Everybody is guilty of the above. Like folks who get mad when you tell them their ‘natty’ physique idol is really a pin cushion, or that the dancer at the strip club didn’t really like them.
But for those with frail egos, getting proven wrong is so stressful and humiliating they’d rather distort reality to remain “right.” Even if it costs them dearly.
Many don’t even realize it at the time. The distortion can occur at a subconscious level, as a defence mechanism. It’s usually followed by blocking or dismissing what brought the discomfort.
Deeper into the thought silo we go.
5. The Dunning-Kruger effect.
The DKE is a cognitive bias where people with limited knowledge or competence in a domain greatly overestimate their own ability, while on the other hand, people with high knowledge or competence in a domain underestimate their own ability.
I saw this all the time when I wrote fitness articles.
When I wanted a really punchy, authoritative quote on a fitness subject like training frequency, I’d never ask a Ph.D.; I’d ask a trainer or coach.
The Ph.D. would invariably give me a long, nuanced, context-heavy version of “it depends.” Whereas a coach would blast back something like “training a muscle every 5 days works best bro.”
Boom. Done. Just not necessarily correct.
So back to vaccines, fitness people often have VERY strong opinions and may even be well read, but in terms of relevant education there’s rarely much beyond anecdote.
Yet lots of passion. Which gets exhausting for those who DO know what they’re talking about, so eventually they tap out of the discussion altogether.
When this happens and the stakes are high, there is no winner.
“The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”
But it’s not just the fitness crowd. We all need to be better.
Otherwise we all lose.
– Coach Bryan