- Some people are turning to artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT for fitness coaching.
- However, health experts say there are pros and cons associated with using AI in place of a personal trainer.
- In-the-moment support may be the biggest benefit of a human personal trainer.
ChatGPT has been making waves since it launched in November 2022, mostly due to its uncanny ability to use language processing to create humanlike conversational dialogue.
From writing impressive cover letters and expert travel guides to crafting a nearly perfect rap song that Drake himself might write, the AI chatbot has been wowing the world.
But does it have a place in health and wellness? Specifically, could ChatGPT act as a personal trainer?
“Using ChatGPT as a personal trainer can be a valuable tool for obtaining topline guidance and basic information regarding fitness and wellness. It can provide general advice, suggest workout routines, explain fundamental concepts, and offer a moderate level of motivation,” Lee Mitchell, personal trainer and fitness ambassador for RENPHO, told Healthline.
Accessibility, convenience, and the ability to answer queries around the clock are some pros that the AI chatbot brings to those looking to improve their fitness.
“Many people are turning to ChatGPT for fitness advice due to its quick responses and the ease of obtaining information without scheduling appointments or incurring costs,” said Mitchell.
The fact that it’s free is a big draw, added Christina Brown, MS, ACSM CPT, nutrition and weight loss coach.
“Unfortunately, many people don’t want to invest in their health on the front end. They will wait until they have a health emergency and end up spending much more money on medical bills,” she told Healthline.
However, Brown acknowledges that turning to ChatGPT to help kickstart a workout routine can help some people take that first step in focusing on their health, and save them time in trying to create their own health plan.
Brown points out that ChatGPT can also help come up with meal ideas and meal plans.
However, Brown said to take caution if relying solely on ChatGPT for nutritional and weight loss advice.
In fact, in May 2023, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) stopped using a chatbot it named Tessa for its Body Positive program due to the AI giving people harmful advice that could trigger or exacerbate eating disorders, such as information about weight loss, counting calories, and measuring body fat.
NEDA posted a statement on Instagram that included below:
“It came to our attention last night that the current version of the Tessa Chatbot, running the Body Positive program, may have given information that was harmful and unrelated to the program.”
While ChatGPT has its merits, Mitchell said it cannot replace the depth of experience, expertise, and personalized approach that a human personal trainer presents to clients.
“Fitness is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Real-world trainers consider individual goals, physical condition, medical history, and physical limitations to craft tailored plans that maximize results while minimizing risks,” he said.
The in-the-moment help and support that human physical trainers offer can’t be replicated by AI, such as hands-on guidance, corrections to form, and real-time adjustments.
ChatCPT lacks the inability to offer nuanced advice, and to physically assess someone’s condition or monitor their progress, which is crucial for designing effective programs, said Mitchell.
“Additionally, it can’t adapt to unexpected changes or emotional factors that might impact one’s fitness journey,” he noted.
Workouts and meal plans that ChatGPT provides may not be effective in reaching your specific goals, either, said Brown.
“And one would have to become quite skilled at prompting ChatGPT in order to get something more than just a generic workout or meal plan,” she said.
Also, her biggest concern is that it will not be able to ensure people are exercising with proper form in order to avoid injury.
On a boarder level, a universal issue that experts have brought up with ChatGPT is that it can present outdated information and misinformation.
In fact, in July 2023, the Federal Trade Commission opened an investigation into OpenAI, the company that created ChatGPT, to uncover if it violates consumer protection laws by collecting personal data and spreading false or misinformation.
The researchers found the following to be limitations and ethical concerns of ChatGPT:
- May infringe copyright laws
- Medicine and law complications may arise
- Sometimes gives inaccurate results
- Sometimes gives biased and harmful results
- Unable to differentiate between reliable and unreliable sources
- Sometimes produces irrelevant references
On the flip side, the researchers found the below to be some advantages of ChatGPT in the health setting:
- Can be used as a rapid search engine
- Searches and analyzes available literature
- Can be used for medical education
- Can be used for patient monitoring and prompt follow up
While ChatGPT can be helpful in researching fitness ideas and meal plans, if a person is in need of an overall holistic approach that focuses on their unique and individualized circumstances, a human with expertise in fitness and nutrition is best.
“This is particularly important for beginners, those with specific goals like muscle gain or weight loss, and individuals dealing with injuries or health conditions,” said Mitchell.
Reaching out to a personal trainer from the beginning whenever possible is Brown’s advice.
“Only a certified trainer will be able to personalize a program based on your goals, needs, abilities, and limitations,” she said.
Additionally, a program created by a personal trainer can help you avoid wasting time with workouts that lead to insufficient results.
“A personal trainer will hold you accountable to actually following your plan in order to reach your goals,” said Brown. “She will keep you motivated to keep going when you want to quit. You won’t get any of that from a computer program.”
While some people are turning to artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT for fitness coaching, experts say there are pros and cons to consider.
Using ChatGPT as a personal trainer can be a valuable tool for obtaining topline guidance and basic information regarding fitness and wellness.
However, it can also provide outdated or misinformation. It can also provide guidance that may result in injury.
Human personal trainers can provide in-the-moment guidance and help tailor a fitness routine that better helps you reach your goals while avoiding exercises that may be less beneficial.