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Judging Fitness Articles and News Reports

Part of the Fitness For Dummies Cheat Sheet

News about fitness studies and developments is often contradictory, even misleading. When you’re wading through fitness news, the following tips can help you pick out reliable sources on TV, online, and in print.

  • Look for context. Does the news report mention how this “revolutionary breakthrough” fits in with previous developments? One new study may be an aberration.

  • Consider the credentials and possible biases of sources quoted. A fitness study is more likely to be legit if it comes out of a major university or government agency rather than some mysterious private institute.

  • Beware of celebrity endorsements. When a celebrity gives media interviews about a disease or plugs a medical treatment or fitness regimen, chances are that person is getting paid, especially if he or she says, “I feel it’s a miracle.” Being a movie star doesn’t make you an exercise expert.

  • Don’t assume cause and effect. If a study says oat bran is “associated with” low cholesterol, this doesn’t mean eating oat bran causes low cholesterol.

  • Look out for advertorials. These are paid ads designed to look like articles, with layouts, fonts, and photos similar to the Web site or magazine’s editorial style so that readers have to work hard to make the distinction. They’re the written version of infomercials.

  • Notice the length of a study and the number of subjects. A four-week study of ten people doesn’t tell you whether a weight-loss pill or exercise regimen is safe or effective. Maybe a pill stops working after two months or a year. Maybe those ten people aren’t typical.

  • Don’t make too much of animal studies. The way an obese mouse responds to a diet drug may not be the same as the way humans do.

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