The secret tip to writing health and fitness headlines is in fact secret tips.

How health and fitness headlines rely on revealing ‘exclusive’ quick advice.

As it’s January, a time renowned for reflecting upon your life and deciding what needs changing, I can’t think of a more appropriate time to write this blog. At the beginning of the new year, everyone seems to go into overdrive, with the majority of us focusing on shifting the Christmas weight. With the chaotic lives that many of us now lead, people seek quick, easy solutions, something that fitness journalism hones in on.

Fitness journalists seem to adopt the mantra that they know something you don’t. I should probably mention that I’m not talking about the articles you see on the side of your Facebook page that boldly state “How I lost 1 stone in a week”, although least be honest, we’ve all clicked on those articles from time to time. Especially you click-baiters out there.

No, I’m talking about the ones in the lifestyle section of major news organisations. As those of you trained in the art of news writing will know, headlines are crucial. They can make or break a piece.

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar”- David Ogilvy.

Headlines are the first part of the article that any reader will engage with, so if it’s not captivating you’re likely to lose them. As we now enter the era of ‘skimming’, you must make a noticeable dent in the thousands of articles online, if you want to attract the readers.

And how do you do that if you’re writing about health and fitness?

Ah now that’s a secret. Literally.


Us readers are a curious bunch. We love to find out something that we didn’t know before. And it’s even better if we feel like we know something that others don’t.

This is the main way that fitness journalist’s lure in readers, their headlines jump out practically screaming “it’ll be our little secret”. And naturally, readers can’t resist out of curiosity.

By jinterwas, (CC-BY-SA), via Flickr
“The headline frames the rest of the experience”- New Yorker

A blog on explains that once a person knows a little bit of information, they will want to find out more. Fitness writers pray on this, teasing their potential audience with snippets of information in their titles.

Why else would we feel so inclined to know “Eighteen ‘healthy habits’ you should give up in 2017” or that the “key to successful weight loss is setting unrealistic goals”.

They sell it to you on the pretence that this is unique advice just for you. And just like Eve, we take the plunge for more knowledge.

The ‘How To’ Craze

‘How to find the right yoga class for you’, ‘How to lose the fat and get fit for free’ and ‘How to quit sugar this year’ are just some of the hundreds of headlines using the renowned ‘how to’ technique.

Linked closely to the idea of secrecy, there’s nothing fitness writers love more than to hook a reader with a good old fashioned ‘how to’.

But why do we find it so irresistible?

An article on QuickSprout (that’s the actual name I promise) says that if you’re headline isn’t useful or is absent of some sort of benefit, then readers are less likely to continue reading. This slightly explains the favoured using of ‘how to’ as it tells reader’s they will gain knowledge, and more specifically tips, that they wouldn’t have known without them (there’s the idea of secrecy again).

“When we stumble upon a “how to” that contains tips, tricks, hacks, secrets to make things easier for us, we’re all about it”.- Alex Brinkman

Not only that, but the ‘how to’ formula entices readers as it promises answers and solutions. Sherice Jacob came up with a technique for writing headlines known as “How to Survive Your First [put the topic here]”. She said headlines that promise the reader they can help them get rid of a certain problem will persuade them to click on the headline and read the rest of the content.

Therefore, with the heart of most health and fitness stories being about ways to improve your wellbeing and get the most out of your workouts, it is no surprise that when it comes to choosing a headline, the ‘how to’ method triumphs.

There you have it, the two golden rules for conjuring up fitness headlines: Secrecy and the ‘How to’ method. So, if you ever wondered why headlines are so crucial, or one day fancy taking up the art of writing health and fitness stories yourself (it could happen!), I hope this has been a helpful little insight.

But remember, this has been our little secret.


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