The ultimate life hack: Use social accountability to stay fit
If you chastise yourself for not working out enough, maybe your exercise isn’t joyful enough. Make it something you look forward to and keep doing by setting up virtual sessions with friends and family.
If every year you tell yourself you will exercise regularly, and every year you end up disappointed, you are far from alone. It may seem like the world is building its abs while you juggle checking correspondence, planning your day, getting breakfasts ready and kids off to school – but the majority of us struggle to find the time and willpower to maintain the regime we want.
Research from social exercise app Alyte, shows that – unsurprisingly, but reassuringly – 4 in 5 people want to exercise more. It’s become the great modern complaint, and stick to beat ourselves with: “I should be at the gym, but I just couldn’t face it/really needed a catchup with my friends/had to stay home with a sick child”.
For the time-poor and the responsibility-rich, exercising as much as you would like can feel impossible. Yet we know well the benefits of exercise in managing stress, boosting mood and mental clarity, strengthening immunity, improving memory and brain function, aiding sleep quality, and lengthening life.
It’s the one thing you can do that makes all other things easier. But it can feel like a chore, a compromise, or a selfish act when demands from work, life, family and friends vie for attention.
By rights, it should be joyous and uplifting – it triggers the release of endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, the ‘happy’ chemicals. Yet getting to the gym can cause further stress or feel like a punish. This is a major reason why most of us want to get more exercise, but never seem to reach our goals.
Your happy place
It’s not just the gym we feel we are falling behind on. Alyte reports that most people (73%) wish they could ‘spend more time with friends’, and just like exercise, the importance and benefits of social connection have been well proven.
In her secret to living longer TED talk, Susan Pinker lists the lifestyle factors that most reduce your chances of death. Far above exercise, at number 7, or weight at number 8, even above drinking and smoking, are: number one – social integration, and number 2 – your close relationships. “SuperAgers” – people 80 and over with much younger mental agility – appear to have one thing in common: close friends.
Socialising has mood boosting benefits, lowering stress and anxiety – thanks to the release of oxytocin and a decrease in cortisol levels – improves brain health lowering risk of dementia, and helps us through tough times. So it’s no surprise that 7 in 10 of us wish we could do more of it, the only surprise is that we don’t.
Friends with benefits
How can we find the time, money, space and energy to fit these crucial activities into already-packed lives – and sustain the habit? Doubling up not only makes logistical sense, but the combination of exercise and socialising is extra powerful.
Socially active people have been shown to have better habits and a healthier lifestyle in general, but the correlation is more direct. At the end of a 12-week fitness program, people who exercised in a group had decreased stress levels and better mental and physical well-being compared to those who exercised alone. The study’s lead author explained “the communal benefits of coming together with friends and colleagues, and doing something difficult, while encouraging one another, pays dividends beyond exercising alone”.
So next time you are considering your workout regime, consider using social accountability and the feel-good factor of seeing friends to help bring the joy back to exercise and boost its benefits.
Most friends will be happy for the accountability to do more exercise – and many will be glad of an alcohol-free, health-conscious hang. Alyte found that more than half of people already wish they could work out with friends and 69% feel they need more accountability to maintain a consistent workout routine. Social accountability can help you, or that friend that often bemoans the motivation to exercise, keep movement regularly in your week – and perhaps more importantly, to make it a happy occasion you look forward to.
This advice is not entirely new – you may have tried it before and found it also fell by the wayside as logistical difficulties reared their heads. You want to exercise with a friend, but you go to different gyms, can’t get to the same area on the same day, or struggle to sync up calendars. Pretty soon you are missing sessions together or feeling frustrated. A new app offers an alternative by allowing you to exercise together, or apart.
Alyte is not intended to replace physical togetherness but to provide time-poor people more opportunities to hang out, in healthy ways. Alyte takes the appeal of social media and the power of social support to motivate people to exercise from the comfort of their own home and schedule.
4 in 5 like online fitness as they can do it ‘anywhere at any time’, but it can also be quite boring as there’s no engagement. But the social aspect changes all that. You can hang out with loved ones across the world, move in a way that uplifts you, with the accountability to motivate you, and the intimacy of a private room.
On the Alyte app, you have an exclusive ‘sesh’ with your chosen mates where you can pick the level, instructor, and focus, and hang out in the virtual room before and after. Choose a yoga, stretch, Pilates, meditation or breathing class, invite friends to join you and meet in a virtual room; start the class when you are ready, regroup to chat after … repeat as many times a week as you like! The app takes care of sending invites, linking to the virtual room, having the class queued up … the tech frustrations many of us are sick of.
The gym-loving can use it to augment other exercise regimes and spend time with friends and family of any ability, taught be carefully selected instructors to cater to different focuses and offerings for bodies and goals. Alyte offers a range of classes from 15-60 minutes, from novice to advanced, and from low to high intensity. Some classes focus on lower body and core, glutes and abs, arms and waist, or mobility – but there are also ‘slow it down’, ‘feel good’, and ‘calming’ sessions, as well as ones that promise better posture, peace, or no kneeling depending on your needs. This means sessions suitable for everyone from your most energetic friend to grandma who is careful with her hips. You can even spot one of the founding partners leading meditation sessions.
Alyte is available for download now on the Apple App Store for free, and rumour has it some well-known names have been enjoying a ‘sesh’. Try it today and feel the mutual benefits of movement and social connection.