Erin Sedig, B.S. and Jan Schroeder, Ph.D.
An important part of life is to remain social with the people around us. Physical and social well-being are fundamentally linked, yet, during this time of social isolation one of the biggest challenges for us is to maintain a social network that provides ample opportunities to engage in healthy relationships and rewarding experiences.
No matter our age, we all have social needs. Feeling connected to other people and to a community contributes to our health and well-being. Volunteering or participating in social activities appears to be the key to address the needs for proximity, meaningful relationships and reciprocity. Social needs are rooted in all of our personalities, desires, expectations, and cultures (McMaster, 2018).
Reciprocity relates to both proximity and meaningful relationships: a relationship appears more solid when there is some reciprocity. Reciprocity means not only receiving from others, but also offering support and friendship, helping others and contributing to society (whether by volunteering or helping neighbors) (McMaster, 2018). Feeling useful is an important contributor to a sense of independence and purpose. What can you do to help someone out? Checking in on a friend by text, email or phone call, or helping with a community clean up, or be that uplifting force in your group exercise class will all help to improve your social relationships.
We can remain social within our fitness community by participating in monthly challenges. This will hold you accountable in your fitness journey, and monthly challenges will also give you a sense of competition and cooperation with your peers. Join our November Challenge – Planks and Thanks!! Attending group fitness classes will hold you accountable in your fitness journey, and are a great social experience. Many people attend fitness classes who have the same lifestyle goals as you, and it will be easier to connect with people. Group fitness classes act almost as a scheduled social time. Go for a walk around where you live. Not only will this count as physical activity and better your health, but this will give you more opportunities to meet people around where you live.
Socializing within a fitness community can potentially decrease the risk of developing depression. Talking with others about your life will portray a feeling of understanding and likeness ultimately decreasing loneliness. Socializing will also benefit our cognitive function because communication improves conversation skills and gestures. The phrase “use it or lose it” can summarize this idea because if you do not practice your social and cognitive skills, it is more likely we will “lose” those skills. Socializing with others can reduce stress and lower blood pressure. Fitness in general will decrease blood pressure and stress, but adding a social aspect helps to relax individuals, too. Self-esteem increases due to more social interaction, and that will lead to more confidence and comfortability in group settings. While we are less able to meet in groups during this pandemic, we can still socialize with others to reap the benefits
Here are some topics to talk about while in the fitness center, at the park, on Zoom, or anywhere else to improve your social relationships:
● Ask or talk about your family, your children, and/or your grandchildren. Most of the time it is easy to talk about your own family, so share! Or, you could ask about someone else's family.
● Share favorite hobbies that you enjoy.
● Share travel experiences or bucket list travel ideas that you have experienced or want to experience.
● Give advice on new places to try like restaurants, hikes, shopping, etc.
● Motivate each other when exercising because this will create a connection between you and that person and make them feel great at the same time.
● After conversing about different topics with another person or group, find things that are similar or that you can relate to between the person or people you are talking with and talk more about that! Share stories and you are sure to connect.
McMaster University. (2018). Addressing the Social Needs of Older Adults: A Contributing Factor to Their Health and Well-being. McMaster Optimal Aging Portal. Retrieved from: https://www.mcmasteroptimalaging.org/blog/detail/blog/2018/12/05/addressing-the-social-needs-of-older-adults-a-contributing-factor-to-their-health-and-well-being
Erin Sedig, BS, is a graduate of Long Beach State University in Kinesiology – Fitness Option (2020).