According to a recent study, having an active friend can be a great motivator to get out of your chair more often.
Connecting with moderately active people may encourage less active people to start moving around more, according to a new mathematical model that takes into account the impact of social interactions on community activity habits. In a recent issue of PLOS ONE, researchers led by Ensela Mema of Kean University in Union, New Jersey, presented their findings.
In 2018, the United States Department of Health and Human Services published evidence-based guidelines outlining the recommended types and amounts of physical exercise to promote health benefits for diverse American demographics. Despite this, national demographic trends suggest that great work has been made toward implementing these suggestions.
When trying to find a solution to this issue, researchers looked to previous studies showing that peer social contacts may greatly enhance physical activity within a community. In light of this knowledge, researchers developed a mathematical model to simulate the effects of social contacts on the long-term patterns of physical activity within a population. Information from the United States Military Academy has been incorporated into the model.
Without social contacts, the model predicted that sedentary behavior would become the norm in populations over time. Long-term, though, inactive communities were more fit and active when the simulations incorporated social exchanges between sedentary and moderately active persons. Yet, global physical activity patterns dropped in simulations where moderately active persons became increasingly sedentary over time.
Even though these simulations were not checked against actual data, the researchers claim they reveal novel insights that can guide public health initiatives to increase physical activity levels in communities. The researchers provide a variety of proposals for such initiatives, such as social activities meant to enhance contacts between sedentary and moderately active persons.
These simulations could also inform attempts to keep physical fitness in the U.S. military, the authors suggest. But they also note that further study is needed to determine the optimal approach to getting inactive people moving and keeping moderately active people engaged.