6 Ways Fitness Instructors Can Promote Body Positivity in the New Year


Annabelle Edge

Terms such as “bikini body” and “shrink down” have been thrown around so much, it can feel as though they’re a part of our daily lives. But what are we feeling when we hear them? What impact do they have on us?

Exercise classes and personal fitness can be a great way to feel good about yourself. Underline that or write it in bold if you have to. Feel good about yourself. Not diet, slim down, or get smaller.

Here are six ways that fitness instructors can promote body positivity in the new year:

1. Focus on how exercise makes you feel. Exercise can be a way to de-stress after a hard day at work or it can be a way of waking up on a Saturday morning. Finding an exercise class that you enjoy can be exhilarating, and it’s important for instructors to focus on that sense of joy. If participants are not enjoying a class, are they likely to come back?

2. Allow people to exercise at their own pace. Let people push themselves at different rates. If someone wants to do a lunge to the floor with weights, that’s great. If someone else wants to do a lunge that doesn’t reach the floor without weights, that’s great too. The important thing is to focus on health—don’t encourage people to push themselves more than they are safely able to. People should feel pleased with themselves at the end of a class and if they feel as though they have failed, they are more likely to see themselves in a negative light. Push people, by all means, but don’t fail them.

3. Show that you have imperfections. As an instructor, you can be placed on a pedestal and that can be difficult for both you and your students. Humanize yourself by showing stretch marks or scars and, if you go wrong when teaching, embrace it. Laugh it off. By owning your mistakes, you are allowing others to be imperfect and not beat themselves up over it.

4. Talk about achievements. Encourage people to see their strengths. Talk about exercise goals, such as running a mile or bench pressing more than you did last time, not about losing X pounds. Exercise is about what you gain, not how much you lose. Let people see themselves as more than a number. Stepping on a scale all the time creates frustration; working towards healthy and manageable goals, step by step, allows for personal growth.

5. Get a great, body-positive playlist. By having upbeat tunes, people will focus on lyrics and beats rather than feeling self-conscious.

6. Smile. Do you remember your first class and how nervous you felt? The people coming through the door might be feeling the same thing. Include them. Involve them. Don’t leave them out, and acknowledge any participation. So much can be communicated through facial expressions—so smile!

Body positivity is important. We should all feel good about ourselves, whatever size, shape, or color we are. Fitness is about more than what you look like; it’s about who you are.

Annabelle is 23 and from the UK. She recently completed a degree in psychology and hopes to go into sport and exercise psychology.