The Social Network: Peer Pressure and Fitness

About a month ago I swapped my purple rubberized FitBit Charge HR for a shiny gold metallic iWatch Series 2, not only for it’s style and cool factor, but for the fact it had all these new fitness related trackers and tools. One downfall however to my shiny new toy was that even though countless friends of mine had FitBits – not many of my friends had iWatches – and the ones that did sadly only used it for (dare I say) TELLING TIME. So now what?? What’s the point of getting up out of my chair at work to take a lap and see what’s going on in other offices if there’s no one to compare my day with??

Who was I going to compete with for the most steps? Who was I going to taunt for always coming in second in a challenge? Who was going to make me want to get up and walk around my living room in circles at 10PM just to clinch a victory? Who was going to make me want to take the stairs?? … The step struggle was now all so real. I don’t even want to move…..

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It may come as no surprise to you reading this that the major driving force in many fitness apps and trackers is as old as some of your ratty workout gear: peer pressure. Whether they use friendly competitions, goals/badges, or good old fashion bragging rights, many of the apps we know and love boil down to this one main concept in order to get you fit.

Peer pressure can be a very powerful force, and though most of us associate peer pressure for it’s negative connotations (drugs, alcohol, partying), peer pressure can also be used for good. A recent study by the Vanderbilt School of Medicine studied the impact peers had on influencing exercise. It found that hanging out with active peers encourages kids to be more active.

The scientists studied groups of friends in an after-school program involving students ages 5 to 12. Using a device that recorded movement, the researchers tracked kids’ physical activity levels over a period of 12 weeks. At the start of the program, none of the children knew each other well, so the researchers were able to track how the children developed friendships and what effect these relationships had on their physical activity level. During the time spent in the program, the strongest factor influencing how much time each child spent engaged in physical activity was the activity level of their four to six closest friends. Children who hung out with more active students were more likely to increase their physical activity levels, while those who befriended more sedentary children became less active.

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Note: These are actual messages from my mom to me on FitBit.

So, can the same hold true for adults and social media pals? Of course! On their own, FitBits, Nike+ Bands, iWatches, and Jawbones can can be helpful tools for anyone trying to get in shape. They collect data and track workouts so you and I can set goals and monitor our progress. But what makes these devices even more helpful is their social features which turn them into powerful motivational tools. Not only can we track our own workouts but we now can connect with friends and compare workouts while swapping the occasional bit of encouragement or trash talk. The peer pressure from our friends pushes up to workout more, push harder, and meet or even exceed our goals.

So.. I guess what I’m trying to get at here is.. if any of you out there have an iWatch! Shout a sister out and let’s get moving together!!

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