Your best friend in pursuit of good health may, in fact, be your best friend.
A new study has found that healthy friends could the best way to keep fit. A study of 3,610 Australian women, published in the “International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity,” found that physical activity and healthy eating behavior were both strongly affected by social contacts. In other words, if your friends are doing it, you are more likely to be doing it.
Researchers from Deakin University surveyed women between the ages of 18 and 46 for the study. They said the importance of social environmental influences on health-promoting behaviors such as exercise and healthy eating has been increasingly recognized. Their new study is one of the first to illustrate the link between social support and a health-focused lifestyle.
The researchers tested the extent to which healthy behavior among a person’s contacts could influence their own lifestyle. The women who took part in the study were asked to rate how much they agreed with such statements as: “I often see other people walking in my neighborhood;” and, “Lots of women I know eat fast food often.”
Those women who moved in healthier circles were in turn more likely to eat well and get more exercise. The researchers suggest that healthy behavior may be contagious.
On the flip side, if your circle of friends tends to sway toward a less-healthy lifestyle, it may take a team approach to turn it around. And that could also be of benefit, because, as the saying goes, “There’s strength in numbers.” You could all, for instance, get a group discount at a local gym, take up a local yoga class or running group, or do any activity at all that promotes exercise. Look for cooking classes that focus on healthy items to get inspired to eat more vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and fish (if you don’t already).
Find some inspiration from those closest to you! And, meanwhile, the researchers plan on investigating this idea further in larger, more focused studies.