Not only do we feel happier when we are around our friends, research now suggests that keeping good friends and staying social promotes a healthy lifestyle. Human behaviour also exhibits what is known as social contagion: if your closest social influence (e.g., your best friend) maintains a healthy and active lifestyle, you are much more likely to also be healthy and active. Your behaviours then, in turn, reinforce those of your closest friend, increasing your physical and psychological wellbeing together.
University of Chicago researchers found that individuals who do not keep a close friend or do not participate in social activities in their older years were more likely to have lower overall health status, experience extreme loneliness, and had a 14% higher chance of premature death.
The good news is that even the simplest activities, such as walking, can cut your risks of suffering Alzheimer’s disease by up to 50%. Physical activity also improves brain function by maintaining the size of your hippocampus – the part of your brain responsible for long- and short-term memory, and spatial awareness – and in the process, reversing brain ageing by 1–2 years!
TIPS FOR BUILDING YOUR SOCIAL EXERCISE CALENDAR
- Play a competitive or organised sport: Joining a team and playing competitive sport, particularly team sports, is a fantastic way to meet and bond with people. Participating in organised sports also ties you to the commitment of a whole season of physical activity. Pick sports that you are interested in or would like to learn, and check out your local community centre or search to find a team to join in your local area.
- Find an exercise buddy: Find someone dependable that you can count on to exercise with you. This makes exercise more interesting and helps keep you motivated. Combining exercise with a good social catch up can be all the motivation you need to exercise for life!
- Exercise for charity: At Inspire Fitness, we have had some amazing clients and staff team up to train for events such as the Run for the Kids, the 100 km Oxfam Trailwalker, and 50 km Upstream Challenge events. By working together, these individuals have been able to both challenge and motivate each other to achieve goals that they may not have achieved by themselves. It is also a great way to raise money for a good cause that is important to you!