“You know what I heard?”
It’s been an interesting, busy, past few weeks, with a lot of projects gathering steam. Questions still get asked, though, usually about something someone has seen in the popular media. The media gets tons of stuff right, but some of the information that slips through the cracks? Yikes!
Some of it is so easy to believe. The authors are certified by some organization, have a lot of letters after their name, and use a lot of science-y words. If any of you are fans of the musical Chicago, sometimes there’s just a bit of the ol’ razzle-dazzle.
I know that the Internet loves a list, so here is my list of 3 things we, as fitness professionals, can do to combat fitness myths:
1. Scientific Literacy
This means know your stuff. Refresh your base of knowledge often, and I mean the basics: anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, motor learning, psychology, etc... Foundational facts should be reviewed and refreshed frequently. Please don’t stop at the basic facts, either, but do a gut-check on your ability to gather new information, especially your ability to read research papers, so you can really examine what evidence is being gathered and evaluate how it has been gathered so you can critically assess the quality of the conclusions. There are continuing education opportunities published every month in scientific journals, as long as you can use your knowledge toolkit to take advantage of them.
2. Avoid Confirmation Bias
Confirmation bias is the tendency to look for, or give priority to, information that supports what you already believe and discount, or ignore, information that contradicts what you “know”. I like to think of this one as the “wow, I’ve heard that a lot lately, and I believe it too, so it must be true” thought process. What are the facts? What experimental evidence has been published on the question? What is the source and quality of that evidence? Put your own beliefs in check, be skeptical, and engage in a systematic search for evidence to support including something in your practice.
3. Ask Questions
Tough questions shouldn’t make an expert defensive, tough questions should allow evidence to be presented. If you get chastised for asking the question, that’s a red flag. If the answer is “everybody knows…” start snorting like an angry bull. If you get an answer that offers scientifically sound evidence, citing supporting data gathered in a rigorous and controlled fashion, and with strong theoretical foundations, that’s a high quality answer. If the answer is “I don’t know” or “it depends”, good. Someone is not willing to simply blather out unsupported information as if it is fact.
All of that said, there will still be some outstanding statements, published and widely circulated. Push yourself to become a resource based in the evidence, watch yourself when you start seeing support for your ideas everywhere, and engage in challenging, high quality question asking.
I’m going to close with a question for you. Where does your scientific literacy need some support? What terms do you see, every day, that you wish you had a little more sure-footed knowledge of—or that you avoid using, for fear of using them incorrectly? Feel free to email or post—you’re not alone and it could offer a great direction for another day!
Susan Sotir, Ph.D. (yep, letters, but remember, I like questions.)
Cybex Research Institute