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The Compelling Power of Camaraderie

by IHRSA January 20, 2010

Women at the gymThe 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans provided the nation with an airtight scientific case for why a person should make exercise a top priority.  The case is unchallenged and polls show that the health benefits of exercise are generally acknowledged by an overwhelming majority of Americans.  Nevertheless, research suggests that most Americans are not active enough to actually reap the benefits.

 We are left, therefore, with one simple, maddening, urgent question:


“How do we compel more Americans to exercise regularly?”


We know there are real barriers to physical activity (injury/illness, unsafe environment, etc.), but other commonly cited barriers, such as “lack of time,” seem too often to simply be the consequence of low prioritization; conscious or subconscious choices to put-off exercise until a theoretical later date.     


 At IHRSA, one way we’ve attempted to address the question is with our I Lost it at the Club! program, an eight-week motivational weight loss program designed to help individuals keep their New Year’s resolutions and maintain a healthy and active lifestyle year-round.  Currently in its 6th year, I Lost it at the Club! is set up as a competition among the participating health clubs.  Last year, a total of 4,857 participants lost over 22,100 lbs.


Undoubtedly, much of the program’s success is due to the great passion and spirit of the participating clubs and their communities, but we think a critical component of the program is that it ties people to something bigger than themselves.  It fosters camaraderie, holds people accountable to others, and celebrates accomplishments.  Moreover, it recognizes that physical activity, like obesity, is contagious, and that social environments play a major role in our levels of physical activity.


The compelling power of camaraderie is certainly not a novel concept, but perhaps it has nevertheless been undervalued or underemphasized in the promotion of physical activity.   It seems like the business community is beginning to incorporate the idea into workplace wellness programs, and social gatherings like running clubs have certainly flourished, but we’d like to see it spread deeper into society, embraced by families, friends, religious groups, book clubs, Facebook friends, etc. 


We want us all to challenge those around us – the people we care about – to be more physically active.


We know there are several wonderful organizations with programs designed to bring people together for physical activity.  We would love to hear from as many of you as possible.  What are you doing and how has it worked?



1/21/2010 3:05:42 PM #

I 100% agree that social environments play a major role in compelling people to exercise regularly.  I am a Registered Dietitian for the non-profit Healthy Kids Challenge, helping integrate nutrition and physical activity solutions into classrooms and kids programs. Camaraderie is a solution I suggest quite often, and has resulted in several schools I've worked with initiating a teacher's walking club before or after school, a running club for students led by two teachers who are runners, an after-school program with 4 leaders - from different careers, but all with passion for wellness - that inspired not only the kids to become more active, but their leaders became healthier because of it.  Those are just a few examples.  The other best practice I recommend is start with what exists rather than creating something new.  Look at what activities you like or your group likes already and build from there.  This is a great blog - thanks for the opportunity to share!

Tammy United States |

1/22/2010 9:21:52 AM #

Thanks for sharing, Tammy.  Those are great ideas.  

Tom Richards, IHRSA United States |

9/28/2010 7:00:15 AM #

I am also agree with the point of view of Tammy that social environments play a major role in compelling people to exercise regularly.

hesi study guide United States |

10/30/2010 3:55:05 PM #

Although a lot of warnings about the health risks are given, we do have obese people all over the world. Most of them have very less physical activity.
Joe  at (Link Removed)

Joe Smith New Zealand |

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