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ASICS calls out AI for ‘Exercise Airbrushing’ and offers AI Training programme to teach AI the transformative power of exercise on the mind

Release Date: 25 Apr 2023
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  • ASICS reveals AI platforms are distorting the real benefit of exercise by generating images that portray people who engage in ‘healthy exercise’ as those with extreme physiques. Putting people off exercise and leaving them feeling insecure.  
  • Seven in 10 (72%) say AI-generated images could cause people to develop worries about their own bodies. 
  • To tackle this issue, ASICS is launching an AI Training programme to help AI tools learn what exercise really looks like.  
  • The public can play their part by posting their ‘healthy exercise’ images online with #TrainingAI to help AI learn. 

London, 25 April 2023 - ASICS has revealed how Artificial Intelligence [“AI”] technology is distorting the real benefit of exercise through images that portray “healthy exercise” as extreme physical transformation. This focus on exercise purely for aesthetic gain is putting millions off exercise and leaving people feeling insecure1. In response, ASICS has launched an AI Training programme to help teach AI that the real power of exercise is to transform the mind. 

AI is increasingly shaping culture – from medical advice to advertising and even creating models in magazines and media campaigns. The AI imaging tools work by combining large amounts of data found on the internet with intelligent algorithms. ASICS’ finding, therefore, highlights a problem, not only significant within yesterday’s culture but one which threatens to worsen tomorrow. 

Delving deeper, a recent survey2, conducted on behalf of ASICS uncovered that seven in 10 (72%) say AI-generated images could cause people to develop worries about their own bodies.  When asked how AI exercise images made them feel, the most common responses were ‘unfit’, ‘inferior’, ‘unattractive’ and ‘insecure.’  

And, while seven in 10 (70%) felt that good mental health is the most important benefit of regular exercise, six in 10 (60%) felt that AI images focus solely on aesthetics. Worryingly, almost one in five (18%) said the AI images made them feel less motivated to exercise. More than seven in 10 (72%) said the AI images showed an unrealistic body type, with many agreeing it would not be possible to achieve through daily exercise alone.  

Gary Raucher, EVP, ASICS EMEA said: “At ASICS, we’ve always believed in the benefit of exercise, not just on the body, but also on the mind. And in today’s society, we know the uplifting power of exercise is needed more than ever. When we discovered that popular AI image-generating tools were creating unrealistic depictions of people who exercised, demotivating people to the point of exclusion from exercise, we were compelled to take action.”  

ASICS has partnered with AI Expert, Omar Karim, to create the AI Training programme – a bank of images of real people enjoying exercise for the feeling, not aesthetics, combined with bespoke lines of code and AI prompts. Helping any AI system learn what exercise really looks like. 

Omar Karim said: “AI is an extremely impressive tool, and its possibilities are endless. While it’s exciting that AI can be used in so many interesting ways, it’s extremely important that it’s taught to accurately represent the world and people around us. One of the interesting parts about the way AI works is that it learns from the years of content shared online.  Therefore, it’s on us to ensure that AI is taught to unlearn what could be potentially harmful. What we are looking at is today’s equivalent of airbrushing, only it’s being done automatically and without human judgement.  

“I’m really excited to be working with ASICS on this project and impressed by the action they’re taking. I hope this is just the start of brands looking to shape AI in a truly progressive way.” 

Hayley Jarvis, Head of Physical Activity for Mind, said: “Being physically active is a fantastic way of boosting your mental health and self-esteem, but we know that some people experience barriers to being active. In Mind's own research, we found that two in five inactive people (41%) say they don't take part in physical activity because they feel self-conscious about their body. This is particularly true for women (51%) compared to men (30%). We want people to enjoy being physically active for the way it makes us feel, setting realistic goals that aren’t based around our weight or shape.” 

ASICS is publicly calling on leading AI platforms to use the AI Training programme to teach their AI tools what normal exercise looks and feels like – ending unrealistic and damaging depictions. 

The public has a key role to play too. ASICS is inviting the nation to share an image of themselves exercising on social with the hashtag #TrainingAI and tagging @ASICS. After confirmation, each image will be added to the bank and used to train AI.  

Find out more about the ASICS AI Training Programme here.   


Notes to Editors 

1 Percentage of respondents who agreed that they were demotivated to exercise or felt insecure has been extrapolated as a percentage of the UK population. 

2  The independent research was conducted amongst 2,000 people aged 18+ in the UK by Onepoll in April 2023. 

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