Freytag: “Help Me Help You”

Accountability is one of the most helpful ways to reach a goal. Most executives and managers are well-trained in holding others and themselves accountable on the job. But when it comes to their own health… they sometimes fall short of plan. As a result, this is an area that seems to be in need of a consistent push or prompt.

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal, titled “The Power of a Gentle Nudge,” validated what I have believed to be true for years. The article states, “The study, conducted by Stanford University, belongs to a growing body of research showing that small amounts of social support, ranging from friends who encourage each other by e-mail to occasional meetings with a fitness counselor, can produce large and lasting gains against one of America’s biggest health problems—physical inactivity.

In the Stanford study, participants were instructed to walk half an hour most days of the week. One group was on their own to follow the program; the other two groups received a phone call approximately every three weeks for a year checking up on their compliance, as well as offering a little positive motivation. The caller, whether human or computer generated, made a surprising impact. As one participant was quoted saying, “When you knew you were going to have to report back on what you had done, it motivated you.”

In addition, other similar studies have proven that social support and social media can help prevent relapse when it comes to unhealthy behaviors. A little prodding and gentle nudging can provoke action and improve compliance to healthier lifestyle habits.

A year ago, I started using my Facebook page as a way to feed my “friends” newsworthy information about health and fitness. My links and posts are meant to keep my “friends” in the know about their health and motivate them to think about it every day and take action. And my strategy seems to be working. To validate this, I continually receive messages thanking me for the “gentle nudge” to keep moving. As one Facebook friend wrote, “Your daily posts shame me into never skipping my workout. When low on motivation, I check your profile and read the posts and comments.” I tend to be from the camp of positive motivation versus negative motivation. However, if she says I shame her into compliance, I’ll take it.

Clearly my idea is not unique. Millions of folks are connecting through social media websites and providing motivation that touches many areas of life. So, have the Facebook and Twitter bugs bit you yet? Do you sometimes wonder if you are wasting time or making time? I personally am a believer in both physical and virtual connection. If there is an aspect of your life that needs improvement, find an expert that inspires you and follow them, friend them or read them. For those of us who need to be efficient with our time, having go-to online sources for personal and professional needs is not only smart—it’s mandatory for survival. Keep in mind that sleep is part of a healthy lifestyle and that better time management results in more hours of sleep.

So, if fitness is an area of your life that needs a constant push, “friend” and “follow me,” and I’ll do my best to provide virtual support. As the article stated, “A light touch can have a lasting effect.”

I have enjoyed connecting with the SUCCESS magazine readers over the last month. In the words of Jerry Maguire (one of my all time favorite movies), “Help me help you!”


Chris Freytag has dedicated her adult life to motivating people to lead healthier lives. A contributing editor to Prevention magazine, she's also written two books, Shortcuts to Big Weight Loss, and her latest, 2-Week Total Body Turnaround. She also has appeared on NBC's Today show and MSNBC's Weekend Update.

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