Peer Pressure Works: Healthy Living is Contagious

These guys might be your ticket to a smaller waistline

Some new research out of Australia suggests that the more you hang out with active people, the more active you, yourself, will be.

The study surveyed over 3,600 women between the ages of 18 and 46 and asked them questions about healthy behaviors in the world around them.  Examples include: “I see people walking in my neighborhood frequently” and “Lots of my friends eat at fast food restaurants.”  By grouping the answers, they found that those who observed healthy behaviors in their environment were more likely to be healthy themselves.

In other words, healthy living is contagious and so, of course, is unhealthy living.

Have you ever heard the phrase “dress for the level of success you want to be at”?  It refers to corporate America and suggests that if you want to be the boss you should start dressing like the boss until you reach that corner office.  This study is basically suggesting the same approach to healthy living.

Look around you.  Who among your friends is healthy?  Can you hang out with them more?  Who in your office always brings in salad for lunch?  Can you arrange to eat once or twice a week with that person?  Can you tag along with a lunchtime walking group?  Put yourself in the path of healthy behaviors and you should naturally adopt healthier behaviors yourself.  How cool is that?

I think a lot of us feel like we have to overcome our lifestyle to be healthy.  But this study suggests you can alter your environment enough to create a lifestyle where it becomes easier and easier, where you just naturally shift to a healthy lifestyle.

I’m all for it!  I have to say I’ve been dragging my family out to various athletic activities; we’ve done hiking, kayaking, indoor trampoline (very fun!), and an aborted attempted at the Couch to 5K program (but hey, we were out there until it got cold …).  It’s been a bit rag tag, but it’s progressed from me dragging us out the door to my husband and son suggesting things.  Now we’re onto cross-country skiing and ice skating lessons.  All these nudges have been conscious on my part since last spring, but now it’s got momentum.  We’ve shifted into even healthier living.

What can you do to change your environment?  Do you think this study has merit?  Have you seen yourself adopt new behaviors when you made a new friend or moved closer to a park?

If you like this story, please consider joining my email list.  I give even more tips and tricks for healthy living, nuggets that don’t quite make the blog.

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About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson here. I've been a personal trainer since 1997, a Pilates instructor since 1998 and the owner of Modern Pilates since 1999. I'm hoping to give you some good ideas to get or stay in shape with a healthy dose of humor and reality. Thanks for joining me.

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5 Responses to Peer Pressure Works: Healthy Living is Contagious

  1. Jessica @ Healthy Obsessions December 20, 2010 at 10:14 am #

    This is so true! I never thought I would ever be a runner. Then I started working at U of M and all over campus you see so many students, faculty, staff . . everyone running! One day, driving home, I said, if they can do it, so can I!

  2. Kris @Krazy_kris December 20, 2010 at 12:24 pm #

    Hi Lisa – It makes total sense to me, and I always go back to your post that talks about building our health “tribe” – I just love that notion! My tribe at home is negligible (although my co workers all eat well and work out), but my digital tribe has grown immensely. I am so grateful to Suzanne for doing our #workoutswap – I can say, that it has gotten me up and out, when on my own I wouldn’t have.

    Hugs & happy holidays to you Lisa -

  3. Lisa Johnson December 20, 2010 at 2:23 pm #

    Jessica, it’s cool isn’t it? Once you realize the trick you can “put yourself in the way” of getting healthier.

  4. Lisa Johnson December 20, 2010 at 2:24 pm #

    Thanks Kris, happy holidays to you too :-) The Digital Tribe is really an untapped tool for a lot of people but it works immensely well…

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  1. The Change Compendium — Angela Fox Petersen - April 19, 2013

    [...] In other words, healthy living is contagious and so, of course, is unhealthy living.” Peer Pressure Works: Healthy Living is Contagious by Lisa Johnson Fitness. More in A Healthy Kind of Contagious from Experience [...]

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