Exercising is “contagious” because of the dynamics of being in a group, found a recent study in Nature Communications who looked at data from a five-year timespan, with more than a million people in a global social network of runners. Those getting encouragement from several other runners in their networks were more likely not just to increase the duration of their exercise, but also their distance and pace affirmed the researchers.
Having a workout partner who holds you accountable and keeps you company is one of the most common tips for staying motivated to work out consistently. But have you ever thought that this partner can be virtual? Researchers note that there’s an easy hack when it comes to staying on track: Tap into your community.
The question is: hot to put this new theory in practice? Consider these tips:
Find a role model who motivates you
Recruiting a gym buddy who’s at the same level as you is effective, but finding a person you admire to hand around with, it’s even more effective, as shown by the new study.
Terri Dreger, a personal trainer and director of brand development at 30 Minute Hit affirms: “Don’t be afraid to situate yourself near people you recognize as experienced, with great work ethic and who have the skills you aspire to gain,”. “We become what we surround ourselves with. If you’re next to a person who never quits early and does that one extra rep, you’re more likely to do that yourself.”
Social media could also be a source of inspiration and motivation. Thank you, Instagram! You can feel more motivated if you follow people who celebrate their wins.
The competition factor to exercising in group
For six months, about 600 people from 40 U.S. cities took on a physical activity program for a study called STEP UP. All were classified as overweight or obese and chose their daily step goals. They were separated into four groups, with one focused only on personal goals and self-tracking with wearable devices, while the other three were set up with different types of game strategies.
One group had a designated leader providing encouragement, while another was more collaborative, with three-person teams that worked together to achieve more points. The third group was more competitive, with three-person teams that competed against each other.
It was that third group who came out way ahead after a period of 6 months. That group increased its activity by 920 steps more than the control group and was hundreds of steps higher than the support and collaboration groups.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Mitesh Patel, MBA, director of Penn Medicine’s Nudge Unit affirmed: “This shows that efforts to increase physical activity are more likely to succeed if they combine the use of a wearable with an effective behavior-change strategy,”. “That includes friendly competition, telling others in a group about their goals and accountability from that group when goals aren’t being met.”
Don’t be intimidated, be inspired
Dreger affirms that social media can work on both sides. It can motivate, but also demotivate, depending on the manner you are using it.
She notes: “You know you’ve gone overboard in the competition department when you start feeling discouraged,” “That means you’re doing more comparison with others, rather than competing with them in a healthy way. That’s a slippery slope.”
Your only goal should be to get to the best shape you can and to remember you are your main competition, your main source of inspiration. That doesn’t mean you are all alone and you should succeed all by yourself, you can succeed by exercising in a group.