Awareness

Health News Too Good to be True? Be Critical!

As an American Council on Exercise (ACE) certified personal trainer and Behavior Change Specialist, I have the privilege of receiving monthly publications from IDEA Fitness.  They provide the latest health and fitness news, as well as advice and inspiration for fitness professionals.  One interesting article was the discussion of fact vs fiction when it comes to health news on the internet.

We are now in the age of information. Not a day passes without being bombarded by countless tips, techniques, and strategies on how to improve our health.  It could be a recently developed detox concoction to help you lose weight in one week.  Or a contraption sending electrical impulses to your legs that mimic running a marathon without actually running!  How about the viral headline from late last year about “Eating Icecream for Breakfast Makes you Smarter?”  With a few strokes on a keyboard, anyone with a creative idea can post on social media or build a stunning website to lead consumers to believe a particular idea will lead to incredible results.

So how can you tell real news from fake news? (#fakenews).  This is when critical thinking comes to play.  I also like using the ‘Trust, but Verify’ approach.

TRUST

Let’s say, you’re a member of a facebook group where an article was shared that caught your attention.  You’ve been a member of this group for awhile now and trust the other members would deliver reliable information.

Pete McCall, MS, personal trainer, fitness educator and adjunct faculty in exercise science at Mesa College in San Diego, stated a great point in the article:
If I belong to an online community or follow a social media ‘expert’ it can be easy to become caught up in a cult of personality and take whatever he or she says as gospel.

This is when you have to check your biases and ask the question  “Do I trust this article?”  By being critical and asking a simple question, it makes you want to dig deeper for information.

…BUT VERIFY

How do you verify?  First, check to see where the source of information originated.  This is when you use the power of Google to do a quick research about the particular topic or find out more information about the author of the article.

One suggestion from IDEA is to confirm a social media account by looking for a blue verified badge that looks like a checkmark.  This is a way for a social media channel to verify you have a legitimate business or brand. However, I noticed that not all accounts have this blue badge yet even the ones I know are authentic brands.

So the next step is to further investigate.  Here are a few questions to ask as suggested in the article:

Do they have a vested interest, especially if monetary, in a particular outcome or message?
Do they have the appropriate background to have evaluated the claims they’re making – meaning, is there confidence they’ve actually read and understood the claim’s source?

Evidence-based and peer-reviewed research is a good way to check if these claims are valid.  If an article cites the research, it’s up to you to verify the research backs the claim.

Always be critical when presented with information especially on social media.

 

What’s your take on health news that sounds too good to be true?  Do you dig deeper for further information?  Let’s continue the discussion by providing a comment below. 

Reference:  Vogel, Amanda, MA.  2017.  Health News:  Fact or Fiction.  IDEA Fitness Journal , July-August 2017, 55-63.
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