How to Determine if a TikTok Fitness Trend Is Safe

Between TikTok and Instagram, it feels as if a new fitness fad or viral workout pops up every day. While social media has lowered the barrier of entry to fitness and raised awareness for all sorts of unique physical activities you can try, not everything you read or watch can be trusted. Most fitness challenges aren’t one-size-fits-all — and some can actually be damaging to your health.

person looking at computer to work out

Is that viral TikTok fitness trend really safe?

“A good rule of thumb is to stay far away from most viral workout trends,” says Katie Kollath, ACE-certified personal trainer and co-founder of Barpath Fitness. “Make sure the person you’re following has an actual personal training certification and actual experience working with clients, not just body pictures on Instagram.”

After all, anyone with access to a smartphone could share a workout or challenge on social media and try to pass it off as a legitimate trend. So when you come across a TikTok workout trend you want to try, first, check out the poster’s profile to verify if they’re actually a reputable source for fitness content.

See if other videos on their page show them working with clients and look for mentions of nationally accredited certifications in their bio. NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine), ACE (American Council on Exercise), and AFAA (Athletics and Fitness Association of America) are a few of the best-known certifications someone can hold in the fitness industry.

Josh Honore, NASM-certified personal trainer, coach for Row House and STRIDE Fitness, and XPRO for Xponential+, echoes this sentiment.

“An influencer’s education definitely impacts the credibility of their content,” he says. “However, I think it’s equally important to determine if the influencer has personal or professional experience in the area of your personal ambition and also lives the advice that they convey.”

TikTok workout trends: are they effective?

Once you’ve determined if an influencer is credible, then it’s important to evaluate the specifics of the fitness challenge they’re touting.

“One 60-day challenge isn’t going to do much for you in the grand scheme of your life that should have fitness integrated within it,” says Kollath. “With these trends, you’re not implementing important training principles like progressive overload or specificity that are needed to see results over time.”

Think about it — most challenges you come across probably last from a few minutes (i.e., 12-3-30) up to a few months (i.e., 75 Hard), at maximum.

But what comes after that period of time? If you simply keep repeating the challenge, your progress will plateau. The most effective fitness programs are built with an end goal in mind — one that’s personal and attainable to you.

What to do instead of trying that TikTok fitness trend

“I always recommend finding a quality professional that can personalize a fitness lifestyle for you,” Honore says. “It’s not always cheap, but developing a custom-fit approach to fitness can be safer — and frankly faster — than following a social media trend and has a greater chance of generating more long-term results.”

As Honore mentions, the watchful eye of a qualified fitness professional ensures you’re moving safely and effectively. Influencers unfortunately can’t monitor every follower who embarks on their fitness challenges, whereas a live trainer can correct your form in real time if you’re doing something improperly. They can also offer modifications to exercises or different moves altogether that are better suited to your body.

If hiring a personal trainer is out of your budget, group fitness classes can also help you get moving safely with a workout that’s thoughtfully planned by an instructor.

Group fitness instructors undergo training and certifications so they can design effective classes and help you find modifications that feel right for your body. Loud music and community are also two major perks you won’t find in a TikTok workout.

The bottom line on TikTok workout trends

Even though you should be cautious and critical about viral workouts and fitness challenges, these social media trends aren’t entirely bad. They can be a good start to your wellness journey when coupled with professional guidance.

“One of my favorite changes I’ve observed in my 15 years in the fitness industry is the prominence of women being empowered through fitness to break some long-standing constructs around strength, fitness and self-image,” says Honore. “12-3-30, Shy Girl Workouts, and Hot Girl Walks are fantastic trends that soften the intimidation and hyper-masculinity factors that have been embedded in the industry. From cardio to strength training, they support more and more women towards having a positive fitness experience.”

Once you’ve taken the leap into a wellness journey, Kollath encourages strength training two to three times per week, walking and moving a lot, eating whole foods often, and getting quality sleep.

“While these habits aren’t sexy and don’t have a cool name like Hot Girl Walks, they are what work and ultimately help you succeed in the pursuit of improvement and health,” she says.

Fitness Trends Move

About David Robertson

David Robertson has been teaching group fitness for over nine years. He has degrees in Advertising and Kinesiology from the University of Illinois and is certified in Les Mills BODYPUMP, BODYATTACK, BODYJAM and Core, among other formats. Based in Chicago, he currently teaches at the Chicago Athletic Clubs and Fitness Formula Clubs. Previously he has taught at Flywheel Sports, CycleBar and OrangeTheory Fitness. By day, he works as a publicist for several lifestyle brands at a local public relations agency.