FITNESS NEWS – ARE YOU BEING DUPED? (from IDEA Fit Tips, Sept. 2017)
Health and fitness news on the internet can produce a minefield of misinformation. Anybody can open a social media account, build a polished website with DIY templates and set up shop as a self-appointed health and fitness expert. And people who do this can lend their work an air of authority by mimicking the design and presentation of authoritative health-news.
These so-called experts can publish anything they want — and they do. They’re not bound by a journalist’s professional standards—checking facts, using reliable evidence, providing balanced coverage—much less the demands of peer-reviewed research.
Even those who mean well can go astray online. Professional journalists, longtime bloggers and social media stars can bow to the pressure to publish quickly and consistently, leading to sloppy misinterpretations of the facts or irresponsible misinformation derived from little more than anecdote or opinion.
All this yields a flood of faulty health information online that has surged in the past few years. How can you separate the factual health information from the false? For starters, arm yourself with skills and strategies for confronting the fire hose of health and fitness content online.
Step 1: Exercise critical thinking. Ask questions and objectively analyze what you’re seeing, whether it’s a headline, video, news report, photo or Facebook rant. “The initial move of just asking the question ‘Do I trust this?’ is a really good first step,” says Joel Breakstone, PhD, director at the Stanford History Education Group.
Step 2: Question the source of the information. Asking basic questions is a powerful shift away from what people are often doing now, which is simply accepting information at face value,” says Breakstone. Thinking critically does not require an hour-long research project. Do a quick Google search, and surf around the website in question to get a sense of who’s behind it. Breakstone recommends looking beyond the website’s “About” page, though. “There are lots of sites that are seeking to obscure their identity,” he says, “so leave the site you are on, and quickly do a separate Google search to see what other people say about that website or that individual.”
On Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, look for a blue verified badge (which looks like a checkmark), confirming that an account—belonging to a media outlet, popular brand or public figure—has been deemed authentic by the social media channel itself. The badge doesn’t mean everything posted from that account is true or fact checked, but it does verify that the individuals/associations are who they say they are.
Step 3: Dig deeper. Double-check when articles and studies were first published. People sometimes post what they think is breaking news on social media when in fact the item is many months or years old.
After all that, be ready to investigate further. Yoni Freedhoff, MD, assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa and medical director at the Bariatric Institute, suggests asking these questions to uncover who is promoting the information and why: “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?”
Evaluate Credibility Online – Once you understand the information’s source, it’s time to figure out what the news is trying to convey (and why). Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA, IDEA author, former faculty member at University of California, Santa Barbara, and co-owner of a blog for baby boomers called funandfit.org, reminds us to consider whether new information validates or refutes our knowledge base. “If it goes against accepted practice or seems too good to be true, or if I simply want the info to be right [because] I agree with it, then I need to trace the links to the primary or original source,” she says.
ACTIVE SENIORS ENJOY LIFE MORE
Good news for older adults: part of the prescription for a healthier, better retirement is exercise. Physical activity protects against declining health and fitness and adds years to your life. Look at your retirement or senior years as an opportunity to do things you have never done before. Most of all, enjoy yourself!
The Best Retirement Is an Active One – Did you know that moderate-intensity physical activity can help you live longer and reduce health problems? Regular exercise helps control blood pressure, body weight and cholesterol levels, and cuts the risk for hardening of the arteries, heart attack and stroke. It conditions muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones to help fight osteoporosis, keep your body more limber and stabilize your joints, thus lowering the risk of everyday injury. It also improves digestion and is good for managing low-back pain, arthritis and diabetes. Regular physical activity helps you maintain your independence. And recently, there’s been more research that suggests an active lifestyle lowers the risk of some cancers. But perhaps the best reason for incorporating regular exercise into your life is that you’ll feel better. Exercise helps you sleep better and manage stress better, and gives you more energy to enjoy work and play.