Using Social Ties to Make Your Exercise Commitment Stick


For various reasons, we can all struggle with maintaining a commitment to exercise over the long term. There are many ways to address this problem. You can try different forms of physical activity until you find one that suits you best, for example.

Reducing the difficulty is another excellent tack. Just like conveyancing lawyers can make a complicated process effortless for their clients, an excellent fitness instructor can ease you into a progression that will push you to grow without causing fatigue or loss of motivation. But in any individual-focused fitness approach, the social factor is one influential aspect that can be overlooked. Here’s how to leverage social support and make exercise a habit.

Accountability helps habit formation

In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg details how social ties—ranging from the strong bonds of friendship to weaker community relationships—are an essential factor in spurring people to action, even on a large scale. That is backed by further research; voter turnout, for instance, has been demonstrated to correlate positively with strong social pressure. We may wish to initiate a change of our own volition, but it’s that sense of accountability that helps to cement good habits.

You might have a detailed workout plan, block off some space in your schedule, and plan healthy meals for the week. But you’ll still have to constantly fight the urge to slack off and fall back into old patterns. That is where having a buddy or two will help. By holding you accountable, they can keep you going long enough for the new habit to take hold, getting you to the point where the thought of quitting doesn’t even enter your mind anymore.

ExercisingSocial ties can support or detract

Besides your workout buddies and mentors, some people motivate through competition, role models who inspire you with a vision of what you might become, and cheerleaders who give unconditional support. In an ideal situation, you’d receive help from each of these roles. Yet our connections can also hold us back. The popular concept, “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” also implies that being exposed to negative people will bring you down.

Evaluate your social ties carefully. Are you spending too much time with people who are naysayers and don’t believe in the value of physical exercise? Try to change their minds and be a positive influence. If you can’t, then minimize your exposure to avoid detracting from your efforts to get better.

Increasing the fun factor

Getting the habit of exercise to stick is a lot more manageable when your chosen form of activity is fun. A buddy can give you feedback and hold you accountable, but more importantly, their participation makes any exercise more enjoyable. Having a partner also opens the way for a variety of options. Playing a sport can give you a great full-body workout for hours without even realizing it because your mind thinks of the game and the fun you’re having. Many people have fun doing more individual-oriented activities, such as running or hiking. But why should you limit your options? Leverage your ties, and play games over the weekend to get everyone’s activity levels up.

Success or failure at habit formation is the biggest reason that your mileage may vary in committing to regular exercise. Use the power of social ties, and you’ll swing the odds significantly in your favor.

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