How Social Interactions Could Influence Our Physical Activity

You’ve decided you want to work out more. Maybe for your health, your mental well-being, or your general fitness. You’ve tried setting out your clothes the night before, scheduling your classes beforehand, or even joining expensive gyms.

Key takeaways:
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    You need 150 to 300 minutes of moderate activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous activity.
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    You can measure your intensity in METs or the metabolic equivalent of a task.
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    Moderately active individuals encourage sedentary individuals as well as discourage sedentary behaviors.
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    Join a gym or studio that focuses on the community to hold you accountable.

But that doesn’t always work. Eventually, your exercise routine tapers off. It can be frustrating, disheartening, and disappointing. You’ve heard working out with friends holds you accountable but is that true? Is that what it will take to keep you exercising? The answer is yes, yes it will!

Let’s go over how much exercising you should be doing, how to hold yourself and your friend accountable, and where to start.

How much activity should you be doing?

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), adults should aim for at least 150 minutes to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. Seventy-five minutes to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity is also acceptable. You can even do a combination of both!

You will get even more benefits after 300 minutes of moderate exercise per week.

Let’s talk about intensity. Intensity is how much work you are doing or the amount of effort required to do the activity.

So what’s the difference between moderate and vigorous? Let’s take walking, for example. Pacing at a brisk walk would be considered a moderate activity while running or jogging would be a vigorous activity. To break it down even further, intensity can be measured in the Metabolic Equivalent of Task, or MET. This is the energy expenditure needed to carry out a task. 1 MET is equivalent to sitting at rest.

Moderate-intensity activities range from 3.0 to 5.9 METs. As stated above, this can be walking briskly, cleaning your house, or doing yard work.

Vigorous intensity activities range rate 6.0 or above in METs. This can be running, stairs, or an intense fitness class.

Twice a week, you should also participate in muscle-strengthening physical activity. This can be strength training, resistance training, or endurance exercises. These are exercises that will increase your skeletal strength, power, and endurance. There are three components to muscle-strengthening activity:

Intensity. How much weight are you lifting?

Frequency. How often are you doing this activity?

Sets and repetitions. How many of each exercise?

Accountability

In one study, three criteria were established regarding social influences on exercise persistence:

  • In a social setting, moderately active individuals draw sedentary individuals into more active behaviors.
  • To control the dropout rate of moderately active individuals, provide easy access to gyms that are convenient for those with busy schedules.
  • Discouraging sedentary behavior will reduce the dropout rate of moderately active individuals.

Essentially, you will need to identify a moderately active friend with a similar exercise schedule to help you stick with it. While the minimum recommendations from the HHS may seem daunting, doing it with a friend will not only hold you accountable but will form an even deeper bond with your friend!

To take it further, if you know someone is waiting for you somewhere, you don’t want to stand them up! And the same goes for them.

Some exercise studios try to build a community as well. By consistently taking a class week after week, the staff and instructors will get to know you and expect to see you there. By not showing up, they could be disappointed in not getting to see you that day.

One study identified three components that improve adherence to physical fitness:

  • Structured exercise classes with group dynamics. This includes minimizing intimidation and personal and group accountability.
  • Social media engagement. This is empowering the participants and having a conduit for accountability via online engagement.
  • Engagement outside of the physical gym setting. This is engagement not only with other participants but extended engagement outside of the group.

In short, if you don’t have a friend who is also into fitness, joining a gym with a tight-knit community can also hold you accountable.

So, where do you start?

While studies have shown that joining a sports team does induce prosocial behavior, it’s not entirely necessary. Focus on finding a gym or fitness studio that holds classes that not only interest you but fit into your schedule. This gym or studio should have an open, welcoming community that you can see yourself being a part of.

The first step is joining. Show up to the same class week to week. Get to know the staff and instructors. Invite a friend. In no time at all, you’ll be consistently exercising.

The HHS recommends 150 - 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous activity per week. Moderate activity is a brisk walk compared to vigorous activity which would be a jog or run. On top of that, add two days a week of muscle-strengthening activity.

There are 2 ways to add a social aspect to your fitness routine for accountability. The first is to join a gym or studio with an active community already established. Find a class that works for your schedule and consistently show up. As you get to know the others involved, it will get easier and easier with time.

The second way is to grab a friend who is already moderately active! Find an activity both of you enjoy and set a schedule.

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