Mind & Body

Research Says Your Good Exercise Habits Can Spread to Your Friends

You open a fitness app, and your recent lack of exercise is glaring back at you. You do notice, however, that Ashley has been upping her running game. Alright—if she can do it, so can you! Thanks to a 2017 study, it's safe to say that witnessing Ashley's stellar running habits will influence yours for the better.

A Race To The Fittest

MIT researchers looked at a fitness-related social network—the researchers wouldn't say which—to reveal whether or not our exercise regimens affect others. In short, they do. The study looked specifically at about 1.1 million runners worldwide and found that the social contagion of their routines went past correlation to causation. That is, you don't just befriend people who exercise as much as you do—you're actually influenced by the quality and quantity of their posted workouts.

As Gretchen Reynolds of the New York Times elaborates, "if one person ran for about 10 minutes more than usual on any given day, that runner's friends would lengthen their workout by approximately three minutes, even if the weather was discouraging." According to their research, if Ashley runs faster than usual, her friends will likely boost their running that same day. But that's not all—runners are also motivated by a slower friend's sudden improvement. The threat of falling behind alone can drive them to pick up the pace.

Spread the Speed

Interestingly enough, the study states that "both men and women influence men, while only women influence other women." Of course, this study only applies to people who have already adopted an exercise routine. In the future, the MIT team plans to explore whether or not other types of exercise are similarly contagious, and what ways we can use this information to help those who have trouble starting a workout habit. Still, their findings add to a mountain of evidence that behaviors may in fact be contagious among friends. Take note, runners.

Is there something you're curious about? Send us a note or email us at editors (at) curiosity.com. And follow Curiosity on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Watch And Learn: Our Favorite Content About Habits

Exercise Is Contagious

Why Is It So Hard To Start Working Out?

Written by Anna Todd April 27, 2017

Curiosity uses cookies to improve site performance, for analytics and for advertising. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies, our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.