For any fitness enthusiast interested in breaking into the fitness industry and become a personal trainer, unrealistic body ideals and a focus on weight loss or other body-centric goals flood social media and messaging in general. Such messaging often perpetuates negative rather than positive body image perceptions among individuals seeking to improve their health and well-being.

However, a growing movement is advocating for a more inclusive and body-positive approach to fitness, emphasizing the importance of self-acceptance and overall health rather than achieving a specific body type or appearance. Positive body image marketing in personal training plays a crucial role in promoting this shift and creating a more welcoming and supportive environment for individuals of all shapes and sizes.

Traditional Fitness Marketing Consequences 

When it comes to helping clients change their lives and improve their well-being, personal trainers need to be seen as both reliable and relatable – not perfect. Personal training clients need to feel a common connection rather than feel alienated or pressured to pursue a narrowly focused weight-centered or appearance-oriented goal. The way the industry image is often portrayed is in contrast to this value. Traditional marketing efforts do little to connect clients and more to disenfranchise them.

It makes sense in many ways – outward appearance is something others can see and therefore they use that as a barometer by which to judge and measure someone’s “fitness” level. In contrast, advertisements and images such as these impart the message that improved appearance is the ultimate benefit and main goal of exercise. It’s not. It’s only one of the many benefits – and not even the most impactful, if we are taking an honest look at what is important in life.

Further, conventional and cliched fitness advertisements that feature uber-thin or ultra-buff models with “perfect” bodies do not resonate with the conventional personal training client. Instead, this type of image might demotivate an individual who ultimately wants to make positive changes, but who feels it’s out of his/her reach because it is unattainable or unrealistic.

Why Positive Body Image Marketing Matters

A negative body image can have detrimental effects on an individual’s mental health, self-esteem, and overall well-being. It can lead to feelings of shame, anxiety, and social isolation, and can even contribute to the development of eating disorders. Traditional fitness marketing, often centered on before-and-after images and weight loss goals, can exacerbate these negative perceptions, making individuals feel like they don’t measure up to unrealistic standards.

We see these unrealistic standards and expectations portrayed on a near-daily basis.

For example, a quick scroll through Instagram reveals hundreds of “progress pictures” that portray only the physical adaptations to the body with exercise. Positive body image marketing, on the other hand, promotes self-acceptance, body appreciation, and a focus on non-scale victories (improved mood, lower stress, enhanced sleep quality, lower cortisol, etc.).

It recognizes that fitness is about improving overall health, enhancing energy levels, and boosting self-confidence, rather than achieving a specific body shape or size.

Benefits of Positive Body Image Marketing

Adopting a positive body image approach in marketing can bring several benefits to personal trainers and their businesses:

  1. Attract a broader clientele: A more inclusive and body-positive marketing approach can attract a wider range of clients, including those who may have felt discouraged by traditional fitness marketing.

  2. Foster a supportive environment: Creating a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere can help clients feel comfortable and supported in their fitness journey.

  3. Enhance client retention: Positive body image messaging can contribute to stronger client relationships and encourage long-term engagement with the trainer’s services.

  4. Establish a reputation as a body-positive brand: Promoting positive body image can differentiate the trainer’s brand and position them as a leader in the movement towards a more inclusive fitness industry.

Strategies for Positive Body Image Marketing in Personal Training

Personal trainers can incorporate positive body image principles into their marketing strategies in several ways:

  1. Use diverse imagery: Feature a variety of body types, ethnicities, and ages in your marketing materials, showcasing real people of all shapes and sizes enjoying fitness activities.

  2. Focus on non-scale victories: Highlight the positive outcomes of fitness, such as increased energy, improved mood, and enhanced strength, rather than solely emphasizing weight loss.

  3. Emphasize holistic well-being: Promote a balanced approach to fitness that incorporates physical activity, nutrition, and mental health.

  4. Use inclusive language: Avoid using weight-centric or judgmental language, and instead focus on empowering and encouraging messages.

  5. Be a positive role model: Personal trainers should embody the principles of positive body image by demonstrating self-acceptance and promoting a healthy relationship with food and exercise.

Promoting Positive Body Image

The question becomes: how do you, as an individual fitness professional, promote a body-positive message and goal for your unique brand and business?

Start by evaluating how you currently market your services and your business. Here are some reflective questions to consider in addition to the above strategies:

  • Do the images you use in your marketing efforts represent real people? The real you?
  • Do the images you use promote body diversity and positivity?
  • Does your overall message evoke emotion from your audience/targeted clientele? Which emotions?
  • Does your message bring your clientele closer to you? How?
  • What attire do you wear during training sessions? Wearing just a sports bra and leggings or shorts and no shirt may evoke a different response than other clothing choices, or different from what you intend. Also, consider cultural implications.
  • What are you posting on social media? Are the posts about the appearance of the body or are they about one’s relationship with his/her body?
  • How do you guide clients in the goal-setting process? Are the goals you guide them towards process or outcome-oriented (i.e. behavior change aspects vs. weight scale-related outcomes)?
  • How do you talk about yourself in front of your clients and others (i.e. do you bemoan the fact that you don’t have a full six-pack or ultra-thin thighs)?
  • How do you measure progress? What are the parameters you use and do they include a combination of objective measures and feeling-based changes?
  • How do you celebrate client success? Is it when they reach a certain weight or is it when they note how they feel, how they are sleeping, or how strong they perceive themselves to be?

These are just a few questions you can use to guide your efforts in marketing your business in a professionally sound manner and promoting positive body image. Part of achieving success in personal training is being able to recruit and retain clients – and that starts with the message you craft, market, and share.

Positive body image marketing in personal training is not only a socially responsible practice but also a strategic approach to attracting and retaining clients. By embracing a more inclusive and body-positive approach, personal trainers can create a supportive environment where individuals of all shapes and sizes feel empowered to pursue their fitness goals and embrace their bodies.

Erin Nitschke

Dr. Erin Nitschke, NFPT-CPT, NSCA-CPT, ACE Health Coach, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Therapeutic Exercise Specialist, and Pn1 is a health and human performance college professor, fitness blogger, mother, and passionate fitness professional. She has over 15 years of experience in the fitness industry and college instruction. Erin believes in the power of a holistic approach to healthy living. She loves encouraging her clients and students to develop body harmony by teaching focused skill development and lifestyle balance. Erin is also the Director of Educational Partnerships & Programs for the NFPT. Erin is an editorial author for ACE, IDEA, The Sheridan Press, and the Casper Star Tribune. Visit her personal blog at