Families, friends and other social networks have the ability to largely influence a person’s fitness level. The reason is that people tend to take on the attitudes, behaviors and obesity acceptance of their networks. New research reported in the July 2007 edition of The New England Journal of Medicine suggested that one of the reasons for the widespread of obesity is societal connection. Using data of the Framingham Heart Study (a long-term health study that has been going on since 1948), Dr. Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, of Harvard Medical School found that weight gain spreads from person to person among social networks. In particular, increases in a person’s weight correlates with increases in friends and/or family member’s weight. What this means is that when addressing obesity, an individual’s social networks must be considered.
Christakis’s study found that people who were only one degree removed from each other, like siblings and close friends, influenced one another two times as much as people who were two degrees removed from each other.
This information can be used to examine our own social networks. Do we socialize in networks where obesity is accepted and attitudes and behaviors are conducive to obesity? Or, do our social networks include individuals who exercise every day and share healthful recipes or fitness tips?
What about Internet social networks? The social groups that one belongs to here can also be influential. Many social networks can be dangerous to a person’s health if poor nutrition, fitness or dieting advice is offered. When it comes to nutrition networks, here are the top 10 recommended by the American Dietetic Association for keeping perfect company. Depending upon your social networking preferences and needs, you may find a favorite here. Since I am always searching for innovative ways to feed healthful foods to my children and their friends, I love “mealmakeovermoms.com” listed below:
Social networks on the Internet can be extremely beneficial and motivational if people are careful about the ones that they join. Social networks with family ties can be trickier. If you find yourself in a social network that you think subliminally or overtly encourages an unhealthy lifestyle, then be a leader. One or two strong leaders in a network can have a huge impact on its members!