Your Fitness & the World

Explore the profound impact of social influence on health and how personal wellness efforts can extend far beyond your immediate circle.
Cal Bauer
March 22, 2024
Your Fitness & the World

Hey there guys. Cal here. The other day I found myself in a rabbit hole while researching a quote that I'm sure many of you have heard:

"You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with"

It was originally said by Jim Rohn, and has definitely run it's course, making its way into social media, magazines, and television for years. I think that's definitely a good thing. The message is very clear: The people who you spend the most time with shape who you are. Choose them wisely, because their topics of conversations will dominate your attention. Their perceptions, opinions, lifestyles, and habits, will, sooner or later, be reflected in you... whether you like it or not. Audit your friends, and you audit your life.

This message is great and honestly caters very well for a gym setting. It enables me to say things like "Come be part of our community" and "Surround yourself with like minded people to become a better you." However, when I was researching this topic, I found some things that blew my mind. I stumbled upon this article by David Burkus, which he wrote while writing his book "Friend of a Friend." It's maybe a 5 minute read, and is definitely worth your time:

The title is misleading, because it suggests that the whole quote is not true. He goes on to say that it is valid, but reaches much further than we had thought.

The researchers Christakis and Fowler lead The first major analysis on social influence using the data from the Framingham Heart Study; one of the largest health studies ever conducted dating back to 1948. I'm not going to get into the nitty gritty, but basically they analyzed the effect of friends and family members on something fairly obvious and extremely relevant - obesity.

You can go read the article yourself, but here's the gist: Objectively, if one of my friends becomes obese, I am 45% more likely to gain weight over the next 2-4 years. Could have seen that coming, right? But it goes deeper than that. If a friend of one of my friends becomes obese, then I am 20% more likely, even if I don't know them. Three degrees of separation away, I'm still 10% more likely to gain weight. Six degrees: is Kevin Bacon.

Going further into their analysis, they found this was true for smoking as well, with an even greater influence percentage.

These are both mind blowing and somewhat negative things to look at. It becomes easy to understand why obesity can spread like wildfire; how it infects an entire families, community, regions, states, countries. But what if we flipped that script?

I can't say for sure that the numbers would be the same, but let's reverse that and say that if YOU worked out, ate well, slept well, and moved towards health, that the 5 people closest to you were more likely to do the same? If you go through those degrees of separation, 25 people closest to that group were more likely to move towards health... At the 3rd degree, 125 people were more likely. What would you think if I told you that just by working out you might be able to create meaningful change in the lives of 155 people to be stronger, healthier humans?

It doesn't stop there; you can scope this out as much as you want to. Suddenly the lens shifts, and it all carries a little more weight. You're not doing it just for you (although that's reason enough to take your health seriously), but for your family, your closest friends, their friends, your community, your city, your county, your state. Just by making a change to a more healthy lifestyle, you're making a massive impact in the lives of people you don't even know.

I wasn't even sure if I was going to blog at all with this business, but I just had to share this idea. Get out there, move often, eat well, sleep deeply - do it for yourself, and do it for everyone else.


P.S. One thing that's been made abundantly clear to me after Covid, is that we're a global society, and we're all connected. One man getting sick in Wuhan, China in 2019 lead to me getting sick 7 months later. Who's to say that your sphere of influence doesn't reach the entire globe? I'm not saying that you're making the world a better place by doing thrusters, buuuuut... you may be saving the world by doing thrusters!

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