By Karyn Gallivan, MS, ATC, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, NASM-CPT
Contributor, Sports+Fitness Network
In our new information age, there is often such a plethora of information on all of the hot topics; it can be difficult to decipher truth from fiction. Harder still, is avoiding the headlines that tout the latest diet and/or exercise. There are many short articles with flashy headlines that provide just tidbits of information. At best these articles do provide some usable information; however, there is hardly a lot of substance in these short articles. Even more challenging is the new online news trend of slideshows with flashy pictures and only a “headline” of information.
I never want to discourage folks from searching for information that may provide steps that help folks to reach their health and fitness goals. So, my suggestion is to use these short headline-articles as the beginning of your information quest.
Generally, there is a “clue” in these articles that indicate where the information comes from. This could be something like “information from the latest — journal” or “Dr. — from…”. Use these guides to go to other, more comprehensive sources and you will find more substance and research information regarding the topic. This may sound like a lot of work, but it does not have to be. In fact, taking these extra steps often proves to be worth the effort.
As health & fitness professionals, I believe that it is incumbent upon us to help our clients, athletes, and patients get the right information. And, while everyone cannot be an expert in deciphering research, we can certainly help those we work with to wade through the sensationalized headlines to find truly helpful information.
A good strategy to take is to remember what we learned in our research classes in school. While reading an article, we should be able to evaluate whether any bias was present, whether important variables were overlooked, or whether the measurement techniques were appropriate for the actual information being reported. Then, compare the stated results with the actual intended research question. Quite often, it is someone other than the author of a research investigation that writes that short headline-article our clients are seeing on the internet. And, it is not uncommon for them to have pulled out just one sentence or phrase and take it entirely out of context… And, while there is good information provided by way of anecdotal information, it is always best to find information that can be backed up with research. A good question to ask when evaluating information is, “are these conclusions supported by data?”
As heath & fitness professionals, we must use our education to give our patients/clients/athletes the appropriate information and to stay away from information that only provides a good headline. It is this appropriate information, along with your professional guidance that will result in their improved health and fitness.