Habits of Fit People: Surround Yourself with Active People

By , SparkPeople Blogger
You want to be a fit person, right? That's why I'm sharing my own habits for keeping fit and staying healthy in the ongoing Habits of Fit People series.

Here's one that works for me: surrounding myself with other active people.

Maybe it sounds obvious, or maybe it sounds impossible, but either way, I believe that it really does matter. As much as we like to think of ourselves as unique individuals, able to make our own decisions, able to resist the influence of others, it turns out that we are actually very similar to our friends, neighbors, family members, co-workers, and acquaintances. Whatever is the norm in your social group, usually becomes the norm for you, too.

This isn't just my opinion. Research supports the idea, too—that obesity is "contagious" and that when we eat with other people, their food choices affect us—how much we eat, what we eat, and how we feel about it. We are always making decisions based on other people's thoughts, actions and habits, which is why it's so important to surround yourself with people whose values and habits support your healthy lifestyle.

I believe that habits are contagious. If your friend is always negative or feeling down, it's hard not to feel the same way yourself. If your family lives to eat, you might have a hard time saying no to certain foods, too. And if your friends are always getting on and off the weight-loss or exercise rollercoaster, then you might not always have the support you need to get to the gym on a regular basis.

But the inverse is also true. Surround yourself with fit, active people who enjoy healthy foods and living healthy, and you'll be more likely to make the same healthy choices.

Lucky for me, I have a big network of friends who are into fitness and healthy eating. My husband (yep, I got hitched) has always been active and exercises six days a week and just completed his first triathlon. We enjoy being active together, too: riding bikes and walking the dog, and signing up for races with our friends, for example. My best friend is an avid exerciser. I'm often calling her up on the weekends to meet for a run or a hike, and she constantly invites me to come to her gym and try Zumba with her. When I don't feel like exercising, my friends say, "Do it!" not "Take the day off. You deserve it." And when we go out to dinner with our friends, or head over to my friend Lauren's house for a dinner party, I know that healthy food is going to be on everyone's plate, and that we'll all support and influence on another in a positive way. And probably more importantly, I don't have anyone trying to sabotage my efforts.

Since healthy living is more than a lifestyle for me—it's a hobby that I love—I tend to find and hang out with people who have the same interests that I do. If you feel like fit and healthy friends in your life are lacking, it's not always possible to convert them (but you can lead by example). However, you can definitely find great support systems in SparkPeople's community. And as you begin living a healthier lifestyle, you're like to run into more people who share your interests and could help make up your "fit people" support system. You'll find fit people at the gym, your first 5K, the health foods store, your local health fair, the farmers market, a weight-loss support group, in Spinning class and just about any place where fit and healthy people tend to frequent to support their lifestyles. I've made great friends through classes at the gym myself!

How about you: Do you think it helps to surround yourself with fit and active people? Do you have a large enough support network for your healthy lifestyle? Have you active friends influenced you in a positive way?

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Thank you! Report
It makes a difference when your friends are swapping new healthy recipes and food ideas vs sharing unhealthy things to do or eat! Report
LGRIF22 9/8/2020
I surrounded myself with healthy, fit people more before COVID, and enjoyed zumba and sports conditioning classes. I've convinced my dog-walking friend to walk a little further with me than she normally would which has helped us both. It seems to take much more of my day to add Spark People to my routine, but I'm trying to be more aware of what I eat which should help in the long run. I still look forward to going back to classes at the gym, but I will NOT gain the COVID weight! Report
Yes you should surround yourself with healthy active people. You don't have to give up your other friends but it helps to have active buddies! Report
Awesome post and I agree. Report
My good friend, Juanita, is an inspiration to me. Report
My family is very supportive! I still struggle sometimes! Report
This is so true, you are the company you keep. Report
I mostly just have active online friends but DH is very supportive and does walk and swim with me. Report
My hubby is my best influence! Personal trainer/Body Builder! Report
Totally agree. I wrote a blog about toxic people in my life if anyone wants to read it. Fit people want to be around other fit people. I think it helps them make better choices. Report
Great blog! Totally agree Report
Very true!! Report
support is key. i do surround myself around people that want the same things as me. They don't have to be on the same fitness level but want them to be working towards that common goal of a healthy lifestyle. My husband and I if we go to a restaurant and it is filled with people that are not of the image I want to look like we will make a different choice. We stay away from buffets and they use to be a cheap option when the kids were young. We make smart choices now and are healthier for it. workout buddies, meet up groups, talking at work..we get together to eat we can get together for walks and activity that have us being active. i go to Zumba with friends, run with friends, we do cross training stations in the garage with friends 1-2 times per week. Its all in what you make it and people will do it..just suggest it! Report
My friends are pretty much inert by nature, as is my husband, but I'm keepin' every last one of 'em! Report
I'm in the same boat...at work, I fortunately am surrounded by people who want to stay in shape. We have a regular Monday basketball game. Sometimes, we will go out and have paintball wars...amazing how much endurance you need for that sometimes. I still hang with my old friends, but I do notice a difference in my habits when I am with them. The more time I spend with those who share a desire to be healthy, the better my habits become. I enjoyed reading the article. Keep 'em coming! Report
Making new friends doesn't mean dumping your old friends. I actually have developed a nice friendship with someone new at work and am going to do my first 5k with her a her friends Thanksgiving morning. She runs and competes in these races all the time. Just being around her has encouraged me to get off my duff and hit the free gym at work much more often. Report
Awesome blog Report
Not always totally possible (for example, my partner has MS and is very overweight and debilitated). I also will not dump my older friends who are less fit then me (although I DO try to lead by example). With that said, I am developing NEW friendships with people who like to live healthy, so I have a good balance of support in my life!! Report
CINTACHAKRA-Wow, didn't know anyone in my circle posted on Sparkpeople. We have the same friends! Report
Great blog!!! Report
I admit that I knew this but I still seem to make friends who are 50 to 300 pounds overweight. Or who has very different views or lifestyles. It is time that I stop sitting on my kiesta waiting for active friends to find me, I need to find them myself. Report
This is a beautiful blog. Thanks Report
I agree completely.
However, I am the one out of the majority of my friends and I feel like it an uphill battle. I want healthy, fit friends- but just have never made friends like that or been able to develop a lasting friendship with them. The friends I do best with are my drinking, sit around and hang out friends! I love them, but they don't motivate me at all :( Report
It is so easy to fall into the trap of eating with your friends and sitting around instead of being active. I like my friends a lot, but being the one to suggest the active choice and healthy food can be a start to better health for all our friends. Report
I totally agree with this blog Report
a lot of my friends are trying Report
Thankfully, I do have a fitness buddy who is my BFF and sharing my journey on SP with me. It does make a difference! With that said, I have become my own fitness buddy as well because there are days when our schedules just don't work out. This makes a difference too... Report
My most active friend is my sister and she lives three hours away. Part of my problem, is not only my friends, but my work schedule. I work when my friends are off. Time to get some new friends! Report
I think it really depends on what type of exerciser you are. If you are an independent type person it is easier to do it on your own. If you are someone who needs more support or encouragement than it is harder if your friends are not active.

None of my friends share my fitness goals but that does not stop me, I have always been independent and don't really need others to motivate me or get me to do something. Never was someone who waits for others to do something if I want to do it I do. I have been working out on my own for over 3 years now. Report
It is difficult for me to maintain a healthy lifestyle sometimes because I really do not have any friends who regularly make healthy choices. The worst is when they are trying to get me to go out to the bars every night on the weekends because not only is there a larger scale of alcohol consumption, but we always stay out until 2am and I don't get enough sleep. I have started to drink soda water with a lime so my friends think I'm drinking alcohol and don't hound me, but I have not devised a plan for leaving the bars earlier yet...Congratulations on gettin' hitched by the way! Report
I would really love to find some active friends. I truly love my friends but they are not as active as me Report
First I must say that I 99% agree with you....some on here have disagreed, but I'd like to address that. Your blog did not suggest DUMPING your non-active friends with unhealthy habits. It did not suggest alienating friends and family that are not like-minded with regard to health habits. It merely suggested to surround yourself with fit-people...and I think there's plenty of room for everyone. It isn't necessarily an all-or-nothing choice, and you didn't present it as such, though some comments seem to have indicated that interpretation.

Another point I'd like to make is that sometimes we gravitate toward the less-healthy friends when WE want to be less healthy while being validated for that (or at least not be chastised for it). So it's not always about THEM wanting to sabotage our efforts. Sometimes WE choose to sabotage OUR OWN EFFORTS by purposely hanging with a group that won't nag or judge us when we self-sabotage.

Though I 99% agree with you, the other 1% is this: Sometimes it IS motivating to be the inspiration for a group of less healthy people. On the other hand, it can be very intimidating to be around over-zealous health-nuts that are way ahead of us, and it can make us feel defeated by the idea that our goals are SO far away by comparison to them, which can inspire us to give up on our goals, or on those friends. I lost touch for awhile with a friend who became such a zealot for running that I no longer had anything in common with her. All she ever did was run, or talk about running. I felt like I was left on the sidelines, not measuring up because my fitness program, though extensive, did not include running. I have also lost friends that were intimidated by my success, only to hear from them again when I had fallen off and regained weight, then to lose them again when back on track. To me that indicates an insecurity in them and feelings of guilt about the lifestyle they wish they had and not wanting a visual reminder of what they are not (yet) motivated enough to achieve. We have to be gentle, non-judgmental, and be careful not to be obsessive and annoying when socializing with less-healthy friends and family. Maybe eventually they will come around IN THEIR OWN TIME just like we did. Report
I have friends from many different areas of life. Some I met because I'm active - and we do active things together. Others are strong friends, but they are not active themselves - but we share other things in common. What I would hate is not having ANY active friends - I could see where that would be a hindrance. And I hope I'm a role model for my less-active friends for them to see what exercise and good-eating can do for a person! Report
I disagree with your thought about surrounding yourself with active people. I don't think you should choose your friends by their activity or fitness levels. You need to see what is inside! I have 3 close friends who I would not trade for the world. One is active and the other 2 are not. We all make choices for ourselves. I have adapted a healthy lifestyle of eating and exercise I am a diabetic). All three are very encouraging and share in my success when I achieve a goal. When we go out, they make sure we go to a restaurant that will have something for me to eat. Active or not they are the best!!! Report
This is so true! Report
well i agree that surrounding yourself with fit people may work but i believe that we should go forth and wrap our arms around those who are not fit and help them and running in a pack with fit people does not promote the sharing attitude for me..just my thoughts as i was really big at times and stood like those little unchosen children on the playgrounds who wished they belonged but never did because they had no idea how to really get there the lady mary Report
Great blog. Thanks to all for your suggestions. I too have a oh well companion but I can't let him stop me from being the best I can be. His attitude actually inspires me to not stay this way and to restart doing the things I know how to do that have helped me to get and stay fit. So to all that are in this alone you are not. You have yourself and you are worthy of the best. GO SPARK PEOPLE!! Report
Over the past year I have acquired a great set of workout friends. We've come together for a common goal. I know I would not have made it this far without them. They really help to keep me motivated. We lead each other. We encourage and challenge as needed.

My life is soooooo good with these ladies. I love you guys!

P.S. CONGRATULATIONS Coach Nicole on your marriage. Many blessings to you both. Report
*sigh* I have no healthy/fit people around me. Really....none. I have one friend, but I only see her every few months. Thats not enough to be motivating. Report
this is so true - I started running in May 2010 and just completed by first 5K - I have met plenty of folks who are runners and have encouraged me so much - not looked at my weight and said "no way you can run". Seek and ye shall find :-) Report
And surrounding one's self with active Spark friends is motivational. Report
I am the motivator in my household. My DH will exercise with me, but some days I have to push through his negativity (read: excuses) to get him to join me. I get tired of having to be the one to push all the time. My kids don't exercise on a regular basis b/c I've only been living this "new" lifestyle for 3 years, and they are teens and didn't see good habits in me and DH for many years. I try to encourage them by inviting them to walk, run, bike, hike, play tennis, and kayak with us when we do our exercise. I have one son who plays soccer regularly, but the three girls are tough to motivate. My family doesn't live nearby; we're not that friendly with neighbors to influence their habits. But we participate in weight-loss support groups and we sometimes do things with those people. I am at a higher fitness level than most of the support group, so I tend to be the one leading the activities. It can be discouraging sometimes, b/c sometimes I just want someone else to motivate me!! LOL. Report
This is so true! I am fortunate to have adult daughters who are also interested in fitness. We have fun working out together and encouraging each other. Is it crazy that when we plan a vacation we research the fitness/spa facilities at the available resorts?
I have the online support from Spark Friends, but not so much in the flesh. Our local Spark Team does get together a couple times a month for walks. Hubby is very encouraging & supportive, but doesn't really participate. I have one friend that participates a little, another friend that would rather lay on the couch and eat ice cream in front of the TV. Mostly my friends and family think I'm nuts. They have a "take a drug to fix it" attitude. I would love to have the money that one friend has spent on pills, potions and quick fixes. She's still 100 pounds over weight. She and I are both 58 years old and I have tried to convince her to make it about health. We're not getting any younger. If not now, when? Mostly I go it alone. Report
It's a nice ideal, but not always a reality for everyone. I don't have loads of friends, and the ones I have don't have my commitment to fitness. At least one is obese. One is handicapped, and the others are just too busy with life to fit in more than a little personal exercise on their own. (nor do they live around me & different work schedules)

So, it is here that I find others who want to be healthy and work towards it.

I work out at a club & go to a class occasionally, but it never has gone beyond that in terms of hanging with someone who feels fitness is important, other than a guy I met a few years back. And he's married as am I. -- My dh wishes he had more time to work out, and sometimes we walk together which is nice. And sometimes I grab one of our kids and walk with them...just not regularly or consistently.

Guess I don't know how to change what is?!? Report
That's one of the biggest reasons I love meeting local SPARKPEOPLE!! :D Finding other Sparkers is like talking to people of my own tribe, ones that know what I'm going through, and are following a similar path.

It's much easier to go through it when you don't feel alone!

Jocelyn Report
I do think that surrounding yourself with active people is a very effective way to positively impact your own health, well-being, and level of activity. As the leader of the Central IL SparkTeam I have made many offline friends whom I spend time with and are great influencers to stay healthy and active, but because of the geography of the team they're spread out and I don't get to see them in person on a daily or even weekly basis. My friends who live in my immediate area and I see most often are not that active and generally are a somewhat negative influence on my habits. However, I have gotten one best friend to join the YMCA and begin exercising more regularly, and when we have get togethers I tend to cook healthy meals that are heavy on the vegetables. So I definitely think that surrounding yourself with healthy, active, positive people is the thing to do if you're looking to embody those traits yourself. Report
I started my children in swimming when they were babies & in Karate at age 4, etc. so they are all fit and enjoy exercise. They make good support as I didn't grow up enjoying exercise. I was taught that girls didn't sweat. Report
Wow, surrounding myself with fit people. Does this mean I get a new DH? Just kidding. Report