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Each month we will focus on one of the six pillars of lifestyle medicine written by one of our allied health family.
This months focus is CONNECTION.

How movement shapes social connections

In today’s fast-paced, digitally connected world, maintaining social connections can be a challenge. Social interaction is a key pillar for our overall health, physical and mental, and is something that is worth prioritising! Furthermore, with October including World mental Health Day, it brings up the need to highlight connection and it’s importance in your health and wellbeing.

While finding connection can be hard at times, there is a powerful and often underestimated tool at our disposal to enhance our social lives: exercise! In this blog, we will explore the profound connection between exercise and social connection, highlighting how physical activity can improve not only our physical health but also our mental and social well-being to grow your community and connection.

Your mental health – why social connection is so important.

Human beings are inherently social creatures, and the quality of our relationships can significantly influence our psychological well-being. In fact, two of the top predictors of longevity are Social Integration and Close Relationships (1,2). Your being and the biology of your health exist within larger social contexts including family, neighbourhood,  community, society and culture. All of which are based on and start with connection.

The trickle on effects from good connection can be enormous and is not something we can overlook. Even the simple pleasure of having someone to talk to when you’re not feeling so great can have enormous rewards to your all-round health.

Exercise as a catalyst for connection

An often underutilised tool in the realm of social connection is exercise, and the social benefits it brings. We can, and should, use our exercise to boost wellbeing from a physical, mental AND social side! Exercise has direct and indirect ways of enhancing our connection, all with their own unique benefits and unique ways they can be tailored to you and your needs.

Direct ways that exercise can enhance social connection is by providing opportunities for social interaction. It’s a powerful vehicle for creating and strengthening connections with others whilst also strengthening all other aspect of your health (including your mental health directly!). Here’s some ways exercise can be transformed into a dynamic social activity:

  • Group Fitness Classes: Group fitness classes like yoga, spin, dance, our Empowering Exercise Group Classes provide a sense of community. You’re surrounded by like-minded individuals, all working towards a common goal of better health. These classes often foster a supportive and friendly atmosphere, making it easier to strike up conversations and build connections.
  • Team sports of sports clubs: Joining a sports team or league is an excellent way to meet new people and strengthen existing relationships. The camaraderie that comes from working together to achieve a shared objective can lead to lasting friendships. Joining a club can also help, with focus of most small clubs being a social place to gather.
  • Walking or Running Clubs (such as our 10am Wednesday walking group!): These clubs offer the chance to explore your neighbourhood, connect with others, and share your fitness journey. We personally LOVE our Wednesday morning walking group and the joy it brings to us and the community that comes along with us.

Indirect ways that exercise can enhance social connection are the other general health benefits it causes that lead to enhancing your connection by enhancing your mental and physical health. Here are some ways exercise and its general benefits can help you find more social connection:

  • Mood Improvement and Reduced Stress: Exercise has a profound impact on our mood and stress levels, making it easier to engage with others in social situations. When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. These endorphins can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, making social interactions more enjoyable and less daunting.
  • Increased Confidence: Regular exercise can also boost self-esteem and self-confidence. As you achieve fitness goals and witness improvements in your physical health, you’re likely to feel more self-assured in various aspects of your life, including social interactions. Confidence can be a game-changer when it comes to initiating conversations, making new friends, or participating in group activities.
  • Enhanced Brain Function: Exercise isn’t just good for your body; it’s also great for your brain. Physical activity has been shown to improve cognitive function, including memory and problem-solving abilities. With a sharper mind, you’re better equipped to engage in conversations, remember people’s names, and contribute meaningfully to social interactions.
  • Shared Goals and Accountability: When you exercise with others, you often share common fitness goals and create a sense of accountability. This shared commitment can strengthen bonds and provide a reason to connect regularly. Whether it’s a workout partner or a fitness class buddy, having someone to share your fitness journey with can be motivating and socially enriching.

When connection forms such a big part of our physical and mental health, finding ways to find ways to help build our social sphere and connections is crucial. Exercise stands as a powerful tool to foster social connection and the skills needed to give you your best chance of finding others to connect with. The benefits of exercise extend beyond physical health; they encompass mental well-being and social bonds as well. So, whether you’re hitting the gym, going for a walk with a friend, or participating in group fitness classes, remember that exercise is not only a path to a healthier body but also a gateway to a richer and more fulfilling social life.

Prioritize exercise, and you may find that your social connections flourish in unexpected and rewarding ways!

Do you need help getting started on your exercise journey? Talk to us about what we can do for you, or book in for a first appointment to see how we can help facilitate your exercise and social connections.

  1. Holt-Lunstad, J. Why social relationships are important for physical health: a systems approach to understanding and modifying risk and protection. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 2018. 69:21.1–21.22.
  2. The secret to living longer may be your social life | Susan Pinker. TED Talk, 5 Sept 2017