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AI in Fitness


There will be many posts about this in follow up blog posts, but let me just say: in a world where AI seems to be inundating every facet of our lives from leisure to business…


It is very important that it does not take over the fitness industry.


That’s not to say that we should be complacent  in any other area of our lives when it comes to AI.


AI taking over art and blatantly plagiarizing artists’ work, for instance, is an issue near and dear to my heart.


But the fitness industry is where I live, work, and thrive. And if there is one thing that I firmly believe about the success of any gym, coach, or individual person’s success journey…


It’s that you cannot replace the human element.


Nor should we.


Fitness at its core is about the human element.


It is about community, it is about passing down wisdom and experience gained through formal education, informal education, experience, and hard fought wins and losses.


But above all else, what is at the core of all fitness very simply makes fitness a human issue: the human body.


Fitness is about improving that thing that we have our entire lives, for better or worse. We can replace homes, we can replace cars. We can change jobs, we can change partners, we can lose all kinds of parts of ourselves. We can even lose parts of our body. But as long as we draw breath, we have our bodies.


And the best way to improve that body is from the expertise, guidance, and experience of professionals who have been trained, who have trained themselves, and have studied to be able to perfect the human body… or simply to make it even just a little bit better.


I’m not against the use of AI as a tool to replace humans so that we can be freed up to pursue other endeavors.


And I’m not against it where it makes sense to use it. There are plenty of uses for AI that can be valid. Rounding out tasks, helping with complicated medical procedures, helping assist with complicated math in engineering, fact checking and double checking work, doing jobs that free up humans to pursue jobs they want. And a myriad of other examples I will use in follow up posts.


But when it comes to fitness, using AI has a couple of issues :


FIRST: AI being used in apps to generate fitness training programs is unethical and irresponsible. It may have “learned “from various training programs across the internet. But just like the average person who has not studied fitness may not have the ability to tell between a good program a bad program when going to various fitness forums… AI is simply aggregating all of the programs and information it collects using a model that may not be able to discern ones that work best, or at least work best for you, where you are in your current state.


SECOND: AI being used to generate diagrams, videos, and models of how an exercise is supposed to be performed is again unethical. AI, at least at the level of the amateur user, is known for not being able to generate the human body the way that it is supposed to look.


Proportions are off, fingers and hands and feet and placement of such is off. I have noticed that when perusing the internet for AI generated exercise demonstration videos… There are often entire muscle groups that do not exist in the human body that are added to these diagrams, which makes it confusing. It often exaggerates again the proportions of these muscles so that it is falsely demonstrating which muscles are being worked and in proportion that they are supposed to be with relation to the human body.


All of this… because it is aggregating information across the internet with apparent little to no regard to what is accurate and simply programmed with the assumption that the majority of the information out there is accurate, and relying on human beings to be responsible on the internet - not spreading misinformation through not having trained on their own. So now we are reliant on a computer model, based on a wide section of information from people who may or may not be professionals. We see reliant on people who are either willfully or accidentally performing an exercise incorrectly.


A human coach might still perform something “incorrectly.” Sometimes it is simply a variation of an exercise that the coach prefers. Or in many cases, it may be slightly incorrect, but still mostly targeting those muscles and accomplishing the purpose. Just a human coach being human and having learned something differently or incorrectly themselves.


We want mostly correct form with an exercise in the gym… but within a certain margin of error, you are still accomplishing everything you set out to do: targeting range of motion, specific muscle recruitment, specific load, etc.


THIRD: AI is dubious at best and unethical at most… when it comes to its contribution to body dysmorphia. The aforementioned disproportionate representation of the human body as well as adding and removing muscle groups leads once again to the issue that we have had since somebody first picked up a weight: body image. And people do not need anything else to contribute to that. Humans on their own often look at themselves in a mirror without looking at anybody else and assume they don’t look the way that they need to.


Then you add in other human beings that they look at and assume that they’re supposed to look like. And they begin to compare and judge themselves further.


Then you get people who tell them they should look different… leading to more dysmorphia.


And then, finally, with the introduction of photo editing tools, such as Photoshop, in the hands of an unethical photographer or editor, as often happens in health and fitness magazines… and the human body is altered that falsely represent what is possible and attainable by ordinary standards.


FOURTH: Finally (but not really finally because we all know that I will have follow-up posts about this), AI cannot… put simply and not eloquently… replace the human element.


Physically in the gym, AI obviously can’t pick a weight up off of somebody if they miss a set or a rep. It cannot watch your form live and correct you. (Unless somebody has found one of those in which case send it to me because I’d like to tear it apart.)


But what it really cannot do is treat you like a fellow human being.


It cannot empathize with you to check and see how you’re doing after the loss of a loved one, it cannot push you a little bit harder when you don’t feel like doing it but need to, it cannot pull back and deload when you need to so that you don’t hurt yourself, and it cannot relate to you.


It cannot relate to your struggles and what it means to be a flesh and bone meat bag human being, who is trying to make this all work after a full day of family and stress and obligations and even a job that might also be replaced by AI in the near future.


It cannot be corrected real time the way a human coach can. A coach, at least a good one, learns session to session and client to client… but can also be directly told what’s working and isn’t working and can more personally tailor that after coming up wirh solutions that don’t require a specific series of words.


Sure, fitness apps have been around for a while now, but at least those fitness apps were written, coded l, and developed by human beings. They may have potentially been designed with the assistance of AI to help round out the coding… but they were written by human beings. And even then it’s very easy to tell which of those apps are better or worse, valid or invalid, applicable to you or not.


But so far on average, I’m seeing a lot more mistakes with wholly AI generated programs over human generated fitness programs - the difference being the ability to put themselves in your shoes. Most of the time, that’s because a lot of fitness apps get weeded out due to not being effective, and because those coaches and those programmers have had to put themselves through the same steps and have the training they need accompanied by experience.


All of this, all of my opinion, is based on the level of AI that I and other professionals have witnessed. I am aware that “better” AI exists that is more accurate, and in theory more responsible. But everything I have collected and my opinions herein are based on the AI available to the average person to be able to use to generate content.


Therefore, as I have said before, I am not against the use of AI ethically to be able to help out where it can when it comes to fitness. Now I personally have not really come across any adequate use of AI when it comes to coaching.


The use of AI in some aspects as it relates to running a gym from a business side, sure. I don’t use it, but I can see where it might help reduce workload.


But I am against the use of AI where it gets in the way of coaching responsibly and reflecting reasonable expectations of any human being ranging from the average mom or dad who wants to come in and get in shape… to professional competitive athletes. And God only knows both have enough issues working against them.


—Coach Cap

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