We are constantly reading, learning and bettering our knowledge.
Since the introduction of the internet, the ability to share content quickly and at mass proportions has lead to the proliferation of education and introduced new ways of learning. It is arguably the biggest success to come out of the internet and advancement of computer technology. However, in the health industry it presents us with a double-edged sword. Head Coach Matt Ham says…
”With time and further progression of the cyber world it has allowed anyone with a computer and basic literacy skills the ability to blurb out information, regardless of its accuracy. This couldn’t be more evident in social networking sites where everyone in the world finds it necessary to tell everyone how they are feeling (I admit I am guilty of this, c’mon you Chels!). In a side note, if I see another guy throw up a before and after ‘selfie’, crediting a tub of protein I am going to burst a vein on the side of my head.”
But hang on a minute…
Isn’t this a website by some guy who just wants to share an opinion? Good observation. You’re already one step closer to the punch line of this message. What you are reading is a blog by a guy you haven’t met. You don’t know his credentials and you don’t know if he’s just talking out of his a*s.
In the health and fitness industry we see so many ‘professionals’ who find articles and websites on the internet, view them, deem them factual and then pass them on to clients, fellow peers and whoever wants to listen.*
*Just a quick caveat, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing in fact, if your personal trainer or coach is willing to further their knowledge it should be commended as these professionals are usually the most successful. In this industry you have to have a reduced ego when it comes to absorbing information as there is so much research and advancement occurring for anyone to believe that there is one way and nothing else works.
The role of science
As scientists, we are taught to scrutinise every article or piece of information that you are offered as even research papers carry imperfections. Some of the best research papers are erroneous; however they are objective and reveal sound findings and constitute what we consider as main stream knowledge today.
If you’ve ever gotten caught in the trap of reading a popular site and gotten hooked on one of their ideals and considering it gospel (hoping they’re right) you’re not alone. We’ve done it. These guys are often leading trainers and coaches around the world and are credible, but it doesn’t make what they say always right.
An article that you read on a website that ends in dot com or dot org is not a primary source; in fact it is a secondary source and does not carry a lot of weight in the academic world. This is because most internet articles have no origin of objective research, it can stem from someone’s opinion on what they have experienced, has worked on their clients or it has worked on themselves.
This is where you have to engage your scepticism; when you read an article you must ask the following of the research:
– What was the size of the population?
– For how long was the study conducted?
– How was the data collected?
– Where did the hypothesis come from?
– Is it peer reviewed research?
– Is there a financial undertone to what they are saying? (For example are they trying to sell supplements and coaching consultations?)
The most objective and sound way to test for a good quality article is to look for peer reviews, these are articles that have been independently scrutinised before they are released to other professionals or the general public.
We might also add here that just because an article uses sources and references it doesn’t make it factual or accurate either. Some very popular strength coaching websites sometimes reference other articles that aren’t necessarily good research, they just help to tell the story they are spruiking. We often read articles that quote health professionals who aren’t exactly experts in the field. This is usually when financial gain is to be obtained as they have a mutual advantage by collaborating in an article for the website.
In closing, we want to remind you to open your eyes when it comes to reading and learning things on this wonderful tool we have at our fingertips. It is a great source of information, however, be sceptical and always ask why, when, who, where and how the article I’m reading came about. After all, Google will tell you pretty much anything you want to hear – you’ve all heard about the websites that encourage anorexia and malnutrition as a way of life. Ask why!