If you want to be healthy and fit, hang out with healthy and fit people. And thanks to social media, it’s easier than ever to do so.
The makeup of your social circle has huge implications for your health and fitness. Research shows when someone becomes obese, his or her friends are a whopping 57 percent more likely to become obese too. If one of your friends quits cigarettes, the chances you’ll smoke decrease by 36 percent. Social influence remains surprisingly strong even in the case of second and third degree connections. If a friend-of-a-friend becomes obese, your odds of putting on extra pounds rise by 20 percent; if a three-degrees-removed acquaintance starts smoking, it impacts the chances you will light up by a not insignificant 11 percent.
Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to quickly overhaul your social circle… Or is it?
This is where the cutting edge work of clinical psychologist and health behavior expert Dr. Sherry Pagoto comes in. Pagoto studies the impact of social media on health, and what she’s finding is fascinating. In a recent research project, Pagoto asked people trying to lose weight about the support they received from their “virtual” friends (i.e., Twitter and Facebook) versus their “real” friends (i.e., physically present). Those in her study rated their virtual friends as significantly more supportive and less negative than their real friends. (Note: Twitter seems to be the best place for encouragement, slightly edging out Facebook.) What’s more, there’s evidence that the virtual support really works: participants in Pagoto’s study that used social media for weight-loss goals shed more pounds than they had in their most recent prior attempt.