Can You Spot a Bad Workout on Pinterest?

What, oh what, did we do before Pinterest? Where would we be without a quick and easy way to find spaghetti squash recipes or the latest Ryan Gosling meme? Would Mason jar salads even be a thing without Pinterest having their back?
Since its launch in 2010, Pinterest has evolved from the place to discover clever examples of Internet brilliance and fashion into a healthy living warrior's one-stop shop for meal-planning strategies, healthy recipes, motivational quotes and exercise inspiration. According to Jessica Matthews, M.S., senior advisor for health and fitness education for the American Council on Exercise, people flock to Pinterest for workouts specifically thanks to its plethora of options for strength training, bodyweight exercises, kettlebell options, boxing ideas and everything in between. In an interview featured in Fortune magazine, Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann further solidified the idea of the platform being a place for the determined, saying "Our hope is that when we show you the right idea you go out and do that thing."
Before you go out and do that thing, though, how can you be sure that the workout you're about to sweat through is safe, effective and designed to help you accomplish your goals? Stop before you go Pin-crazy and get an education on the good, the bad and the effective of printable workout graphics.

Nitpick Your Pinterest Picks

According to Women's Health magazine, there are 529.7 million health and fitness pins available on Pinterest. Not all pins are created equal, though, and knowing the difference between the workouts that are all for show and the ones that have some science or experience backing them will save you from wasting an at-home workout or causing injury.
Matthews strongly cautions against looking to workouts that promise a "quick fix" or any kind of exaggerated result. "Often these types of workouts are accompanied by a photo of a person with a very lean, chiseled physique, alluding to the fact that if you follow this particular workout you will experience similar results," she warns. "In reality, everyone responds to exercise differently based on a wide variety of factors." Workouts promoting promises in a specific, unrealistic time frame ("Lose 20 pounds in five days!") or those focused on a desired "fitspiration" goal should be taken with a grain of salt, as every body type is different and any workout must come paired with other healthy habits that are likely left out of an eye-catching pin. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
To ensure that the workout you're about to pin is one that will push you toward your ultimate goals, Matthews further recommends focusing on workout plans that include clear, concise descriptions of how to properly, safely and effectively perform each move. This could be within the graphic itself, demonstrated as a GIF or included in the external URL link. "Additionally, I would also suggest looking for a bodyweight workout options to progress and/or regress the intensity of each exercise, as this will enable you to tailor the workout experience to meet your current fitness level," she says.
If you're a beginner starting fresh, understanding proper form while working out at home can be a challenge, so it's important to also look for some key body positions when filtering the good Pinterest workouts from the bad. Within those aforementioned exercise plans accompanied by some kind of photo or other demonstration are preferable, Matthews recommends focusing on the model or trainer's overall posture. "Things such as rounded shoulders or upper back, an overly arched spine or the neck out of neutral alignment are typically telltale signs of improper form and body mechanics," she explains. "Additionally, individuals can look at key joints, such as the knees and elbows to see if they are hyperextended or 'locked out.' Look for the wrists to be in a neutral alignment, [as opposed to a flexed position], especially during strength-based exercises using equipment such as dumbbells." If you're still unsure, bring the workout to a local personal trainer and ask them to run you through the moves safely. 
Another important element to consider with every pin you peruse? The man or woman behind the workout. Credible workouts will either link to a reputable website where you can find the credentials of the trainer who designed the exercise plan, or the name of the trainer will be listed within the graphic itself. Matthews says taking a quick second to visit the U.S. Registry of Exercise Professionals after finding a workout that piques your interest will allow you to verify that the routine was created by a certified fitness professional who knows what they're talking about.

The Do's and Definitely Do Not's

With the right understanding of the workouts available on the internet, Pinterest can be an excellent source of motivation for you to find the one that keeps you coming back day after day, month after month. Keep these five essential tips from Matthews in mind the next time you go on a pinning spree.
  • DO look for workouts that provide quality visual images of each exercise along with clear and concise descriptions of how to perform each movement with proper form.
  • DON'T choose workouts based solely on the physique of the person in the pinned photo, as that does not denote that the workout is necessarily safe, effective or in line with your personal health and fitness goals.
  • DO seek workouts developed by fitness professionals who hold reputable, accredited fitness certifications, as well as those developed by trusted, well-established and highly respected health and fitness organizations.
  • DON'T select a workout that offers a "quick fix" or makes any other false or exaggerated claims.
  • DO find a workout that aligns with your personal interests and goals, as the more you enjoy the exercise experience, the more likely you are to stick with it long term and reap the greatest benefits.
Pinterest has been inspiring people with motivational quotes, healthy recipe ideas and health hacks for years, so searching for ways to keep your exercise routine exciting, stimulating and challenging is only natural. Keeping these tips in mind as you scroll through pages and pages of pins will not only allow you to let your imagination run wild with possibilities, but will also keep you safe from time-wasting workouts or injury.