As a fitness blogger, my main goal is to move people to move more. It is not to move products.
This is why you will find very few product reviews on my blog (people like DC Rainmaker do it much better); why I often use emotive language and possibly why I am on few (if any) PR lists (other than blacklists).
Please do not take this as a slight on my fitness blogging peers, but sponsored post after sponsored post promoting and pushing products, places and people is not my idea of influencing.
What is Influencing?
For me, influencing is about inspiring and creating change; it is about challenging the status quo and sometimes, it is about going head to head with organisations and businesses whose practices I believe are detrimental to my main goal of getting more people moving.
In the past few years, I have used this blog, my blogs for the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine (FSEM) and even evidence to a Parliamentary Committee to criticise The Sun for its coverage of Man v Fat Football; Herbalife and Great Run for their intended partnership; the UK Government on their failing obesity policies; the Sports and Exercise Medicine community for their approaches to inactivity and also UKactive for their less than national National Fitness Day celebrations.
I possibly have some anger issues, but what I definitely do have is passion and determination.
I do not give in, I do not give up and do not care about upsetting brands or organisations. If I find what they are doing to be questionable, I do not adopt a policy of “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all” in fear of being blacklisted or missing out on future opportunities. Instead, I question and I challenge.
And that is why I find myself again at odds with ukactive, the self proclaimed champions of physical activity.
For since the turn of the year (and even since 2012), they have been pursuing an agenda.
Fittest and Laziest
That agenda is a reductionist one that labels the cause of inactivity as laziness. According to ukactive, the UK population are defined by their place in some spectrum between the fittest and the laziest. The laziest are a national embarrassment and a burden on society while the fittest are celebrated.
By repeatedly pinning the blame solely on personal lifestyle choices and using such pejorative language, ukactive are ignoring the myriad of factors impacting on activity levels. I won’t bore you with these, but my FSEM Blog on Salutogenesis is worth a read (no really, it is).
If we are to purposively tackle the inactivity epidemic that blights this and many other countries, we have to move away from blaming individuals and accept that the problem is a societal and often environmental one.
That is not to say that people should be excused from personal responsibility, but we have to consider the reasons why people adopt self destructive behaviours. We also have to look beyond the fact that we are actually hardwired to conserve energy and ask ourselves if continuously telling people how lazy they are has any benefits? Does it make sedentary people reflect? Does to inspire behaviour change?
I am not a behavioural scientist, but my experience and understanding (very basic) of behaviour change tells me that it does not.
So why do ukactive insist on repeatedly using this word? You will have to ask them yourself. For they are refusing to respond to my questions or those of other bloggers. Helen and Bethan and physical activity advocates.
Some have came to their defence stating that this is not indicative of ukactive’s beliefs or approach but with the offending posts still live and questions remaining ignored, I am struggling to accept this.
As long as these questions go answered and this mindset exists, I will be unable to support ukactive or National Fitness Day who otherwise undertake some fantastic work and champion some wonderful initiatives.
Pursuing this line of enquiry so aggressively will not endear me to ukactive or to their followers and partners, but as a fitness blogger/influencer and physical activity advocate this is important and we must ensure that the media (shame on the BBC for the original news headline) and those charged with helping the nation move more understand that:
Inactive does not equate to laziness and to suggest otherwise is simply lazy