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How Social Is Redefining Fitness: The Rise of the Fitness Tribes

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Talk to anyone about their eating, exercise or weight loss goals, and it quickly becomes clear that most of us see being healthy as an individual effort:

"I've let myself go."

"I need more discipline."

"I'm starting a diet on Monday."

But we humans are very social beings. Most of us eat meals with others, work with others, and live with others. So trying to tackle our health goals in isolation doesn't make much sense. Still, if the people you live, work, and play with are all on a very different page when it comes to eating and exercise, the chances of you sticking to a healthy new habit or making a big change that lasts are slim.

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That's where a fitness tribe comes in. When you harness the power of those around you who are already making healthy choices -- friends, family, coworkers, etc. -- you're more likely to make smart food and exercise choices, too. The data bears this out: MyFitnessPal users who have 10 or more friends on the app lose an average of four times as much weight compared to those who haven't connected with friends.

But what exactly is a fitness tribe?

Fitness tribes come in many shapes and sizes. Yours can be two people or 200,000, it can be just you and your family (Grandma, too!) or it could be you in Chicago and your BFFs from college in Miami.

A fitness tribe is simply two or more people who team up in any way, shape or form to engage in healthy behavior, build healthy habits, or achieve a healthy goal together. It's not the number in your tribe that leads to more success; it's the power of the support you get from them that counts. Our user data and survey show people prefer to share their healthy food, fitness activities, and accomplishments with friends -- online and off, because it's more fun, more do-able, and more sustainable over time to be healthy social vs. solo.

A fitness tribe is what you make of it. It can be infinitely flexible or it can be a bit more formal, with scheduled workouts, eating plans, and a tribe name (let's go, Cardio Queens!). Still, the most successful fitness tribes have four key ingredients.

Shared goals
You can find or form a fitness tribe around taking 50,000 steps a week, running five miles a week, eating five vegetables a week, prepping five meals, or losing five pounds. Some people belong to multiple fitness tribes to cover several different health goals, while others focus on one goal and one tribe at a time. Big or small, having a common goal is a success factor. Take Oklahoma City, for example. The whole town rallied around a single goal to lose 1 million pounds -- and they nailed it!

Shared values and tactics
It's human nature to bond with people who share your priorities and beliefs about how this health thing should happen. That's especially true when it comes to food philosophies. Vegetarians and Paleo eaters might get along just fine in the gym, but the dining table could be another story. If you are just starting to make healthier food choices, finding another beginner who will share your experience is a great idea -- you'll be able to help each other get past that first pizza sighting without succumbing to a slice.

Shared behavior
Maybe everyone in your tribe is tracking their food, their exercise, or their weight. Or maybe you're all biking every Saturday, attending that awesome Thursday night Zumba class, or training for a half marathon. Or perhaps you're all taking the stairs, cooking more of your meals at home, or getting more sleep. Whatever the habit is, consistent, common behaviors are a big part of what makes a fitness tribe a fitness tribe.

Shared support
Members of a well-oiled fitness tribe give each other kudos when they're on a roll -- and they pick each other up when things get rough. Bonding over the wins and occasional woes will make your tribe stronger, and make attaining the ultimate goal more likely for everyone in the group.

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