Whether you’re attempting to lose weight again or simply tweak your eating or fitness behaviors, going it alone might not be your best bet. There’s evidence that enlisting support from others can help you stick to your new and improved routines over the long term.
In a recent study published in Patient Preference and Adherence, requiring participants to have a buddy and to sign a social support contract with three other family members or friends was associated with enhanced adherence to exercise and positive health outcomes.
Related: Why Exercise Makes Us Happy
Although my husband spends most of his workout time enjoying the camaraderie and competition of playing squash, I usually prefer solo exercise. Nevertheless, I love connecting with friends over walking dates at least once or twice each week and with my family during hikes or rounds of golf over the summer.
Here are four simple ways to find support:
1. Share and share alike.
I’ve shared my daily workouts on social media for years, but I recently began hosting a monthly Facebook fitness challenge in which I post my workout and encourage others to do the same. At the end of the month, the participant who posts the most times wins a fitness-related prize. I enjoy connecting with others who want to stay fit and seeing them meet their fitness goals. Some have even started similar challenges in their own online communities.
2. Team up.
New York City-based registered dietitian Toby Amidor stays fit by playing in several tennis leagues. “Being part of a team helps me stay on track with my fitness goal and enjoy time with friends,” Amidor says. “We all strive to play better and help raise the bar on each other’s game. It’s a win-win.”
Claudia Zapata, a San Antonio, Texas-based registered dietitian, is part of another kind of team. “My girlfriends and I share a personal trainer,” she says. “It not only saves us money, but also makes the workouts more enjoyable. We push each other to get stronger and then chat about everything from kids and spouses to dinner recipes between sets. It’s part workout, part girls’ day out.”
3. Go green.
Some find it motivating to compete against others while having a monetary incentive to win. For example, City Fitness hosts a 20-day fitness competition in Philadelphia called #MyCityMoves in which participants compete for several prizes totaling $10,000. And apps like Charity Miles allow you to earn money for a favorite charity based on each mile you walk, run or bike.
4. Make it a family affair.
Soliciting a family member can also be a great way to stay fit—especially when you find activities you both enjoy. Medway, Massachusetts-based registered dietitian Kate Scarlata has had the same running buddy—her husband of 26 years—since she was 16 years old. “We have always prioritized our running, even if that meant getting a baby sitter when the kids were little,” she says. “We have great talks, laughs and cheer each other on.”
This article originally appeared in the August 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
Elisa Zied is an award-winning New York State certified dietitian nutritionist and the author of Younger Next Week (Harlequin Nonfiction) and three other consumer titles. A past spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, she received a bachelor's in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and a master's in clinical nutrition from New York University. For more than two decades, she has garnered millions of media impressions through her TV appearances, articles and blogs. Having recently discovered her passion for reading and writing fiction, she is currently working on her first novel. She lives in New York City with her husband of 24 years and her two sons. When she’s not reading, she enjoys long walks and hikes, hula hooping, seeing Broadway shows and movies, attending book signings and festivals, and interviewing her favorite authors for her Food, Fitness & Fiction blog.