The Fitness Skeptic Dictionary

Not familiar with a word that appears in this blog? Well here's where you'll find some definitions that might be helpful:


Alternative Medicine

Alternative medicine can be defined as those practices claimed to have the healing effects of medicine but whose efficacy is unproven, disproven or impossible to prove. Unlike in conventional medicine, the use of alternative medical interventions do not follow rigorous scientific examination.  

Anecdotal Evidence

Anecdotal evidence is evidence that relies heavily if not entirely on personal testimony. It is of limited value from a scientific perspective as there are many potential weaknesses to its reliability. For example, samples may be unrepresentative of the group being studied and /or may be subject to selection bias.



A derogatory term for misconceptions and ideas of questionable scientific credibility, passed around among laymen by word-of-mouth as if factually true.

Most examples of bro-science pertain to biology, fitness and sports where it most often circulates in fitness, athletic and bodybuilding circles. Here, many people want to know how to most effectively train but are either ignorant of or do not fully understand the actual science. (


Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is tendency favour and recall information that confirms pre-existing beliefs. It is displayed when people gather, remember or interpret information selectively to match their position. Confirmation bias is often at it's strongest when beliefs are deeply entrenched or emotionally charged.


Ergogenic Aid

'An ergogenic aid is a physical, mechanical, nutritional, psychological, or pharmacological substance or treatment that will either directly improve physiological variables associated with exercise/sports performance or removes subjective restraints which may limit physiological capacity'. Dr. Robert A. Robergs: Professor of Human Movement and Health, University of Western Sydney.


Logical Fallacy

A Logical Fallacy is an error in reasoning. When someone adopts a position, or tries to persuade someone a position is true based on a bad piece of reasoning, they commit a fallacy. The term logical fallacy most often refers to the well known errors of reasoning that have over time been named and defined. For example: the argument from ignorance, the appeal to nature, the argument from antiquity. 


Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET)

The Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET), or metabolic equivalent, is a measure used to express the energy cost of physical activities. It is defined as the ratio of metabolic rate (and thus the rate of energy consumption) during a specific physical activity as compared to a reference metabolic rate. This is set by convention to 3.5 ml O2·kg−1·min−1 which is approximately equivalent to the oxygen consumption while at rest. The resting value is given the number 1 (1 MET) and any physical activity is given a value equivalent to its ratio above this. So for example an activity that is twice as energy demanding as rest is given a MET value of 2 and so on.

Meta Analysis

A Meta Analysis is a method for systematically combining relevant qualitative and quantitative data from several selected conceptually similar studies to develop a single conclusion that has greater statistical power. A key benefit of this approach is that aggregating information leads to greater statistical power than is possible from the measure derived from any study in isolation.




Pseudoscience consists of claims, beliefs, or practices presented as being plausible scientifically, but which are not justifiable by the scientific method. A topic, practice, or body of knowledge can reasonably be considered pseudoscientific when it is presented as consistent with the norms of scientific research, but it demonstrably fails to meet these norms.



Snake oil


  1. a substance with no real medicinal value sold as a remedy for all diseases.

  2. a product, policy, etc. of little real worth or value that is promoted as the solution to a problem.

Statistical Significance

Statistical Significance is a statistical assessment to determine whether observations made during experiments reflect a pattern rather than just chance. A significance level is selected before data is collected and is typically set to 5% (0.05) but often much lower eg. 1% (0.01). In statistical analysis this is called a p-value. If after analysis the data presents a p-value of less than that set for significance, an investigator may conclude an observation is not a chance occurrence. The opposite would be true for p-values greater than the set value for significance.

Systematic Review

Systematic reviews are a type of literature review that collects and critically analyzes multiple research studies or papers.

They are designed to provide a complete, exhaustive summary of current literature relevant to a research question. Systematic reviews of randomized controlled trials are key in the practice of evidence-based medicine.


An word used by elite rowers to describe the glistening layer of sweat that occurs on the body after a moderately hard erg session. The act of producing swint is known by rowers as 'swinting'.

Swint is differentiated from sweat by volume. Swint clings to the body in a thin layer, while sweat drips ;-)





In accordance with fact or reality.



The theory that the origin and phenomena of life are dependent on a force or principle distinct from purely chemical or physical forces. Vitalism a long history in traditional and alternative healing. Such practises suggest that disease results from some imbalance in vitalistic forces. This has of course never been demonstrated. 





Woo is a word skeptics use to describe pseudo-scientific ideas, ideas that are irrational, often implausible and not based on any evidence that is proportional with the extraordinary nature of the claim. These are ideas are rarely tested to see if they are real and are usually defended against all reason and contrary evidence.