Well, sort of. Let me explain.
I mentioned this before, but I started parking farther away from my office building than I had to. I listen to music as I come and go from the office. When I changed jobs, I went from a 3-song walk to, at best, a 1-song walk. And if I wanted to I could park so close that I couldn’t even get the headphones plugged in before I was at the door.
There was just a little problem. Turns out, I needed that walk for more reasons than one.
The first reason is that Fatty really needed the exercise. I got winded walking around one day. That’s not cool. The second reason is it helped me clear my head. It was just nice to have the time to mentally decompress as I was leaving the office, and it was nice to get my heart rate up a little before I chained myself to a desk in the morning.
And so as a part of all the little changes I’ve been making, I started parking farther away on most days. I don’t know how much it’s really helped, but my fitbit’s appreciated the difference.
Much like my vegan and Crossfit comrades, turns out I can’t shut up about my life choices.
But my evil plan worked. A few weeks ago, one of my coworkers told me they started doing the same thing. Then this week, I saw another’s car where I parked, so I confronted them to see why (‘cause I’m an adult and adults confront each other over where they park). Turns out, they’d started doing it too. They both gave the same reasons. It was an extra little bit of activity and it helped clear their heads. I bragged to someone else about starting this little revolution and found out a THIRD coworker was doing the same thing.
The revolution starts now.
I think we can all agree, though, if I was going to start a revolution, this was both the least expected and also the least harmful.
But here’s the thing: This shouldn’t really be a surprise. Behavior is contagious.
We do nothing in a vacuum.
When one friend becomes obese, it increases the chance you become obese. I’ve even seen research that shows that effect going out a second degree. In other words, a friend of a friend becoming obese would be a decent predictor of you becoming obese.
Now it’s not to say that them becoming fat is spreading like a cold. The simple fact that they’ve gotten fat won’t make you fat. It’s more complicated than that.
One reason could easily be the environment. If you’re in an environment where unhealthy food abounds, where it’s difficult to exercise, or a high-stress workplace, your friend’s contributors to obesity are also your contributors.
I live in the South. The food is fantastic here. The food is also not even vaguely healthy (at least not what I tend to order). Conversely, when I was living in Florida, fitness was a way of life. Jogging paths and accompanying joggers were everywhere. The restaurants also catered to this crowd. Both of these places impacted my behavior.
Another reason is also just mimicry. When we see people around us making a decision, it’s more likely that we’ll make a similar decision. It’s like seeing the driver in front of you roll through a stop sign. You become a little more likely to as well, and so does the driver behind you.
I mentioned those joggers in Florida. Well, that’s where I jogged the most. I didn’t jog much back in Texas. And when I did, there was a lot of treadmill work. Moving to Florida, joggers out and about made it seem like a more normal activity.
And of course, there’s also just the good, old-fashioned support systems. People are social creatures. Or at least that’s what people tell me when they want me to go out on the town. When your friends, family, and coworkers create an environment that supports healthy decisions, you have a better chance to be successful.
They provide reinforcement. They’ll cheer you on as you get ready for a big race. They’ll even lend an ear when you talk about your WOD.
They may also join you. At my last job, there was a group of us that did stadium workouts after work. They were a regular thing. It made it easier to go through with it. It also made it more difficult to opt out.
Which leads us to peer pressure. Friends and family give support. They also give guilt. If you skip out, it’s not anonymous. They know. They ask questions.
So yeah, the people around you impact you with their decisions. Behavior is contagious. And if the people around you aren’t making the best decisions, you can lead the change. Or maybe you can be the first follower.
My environment may not be full of perfect examples, but there are some good examples. Three of my coworkers have fun half marathons in the past year. Showoffs.
I’ve also got coworkers making smaller decisions to try and me more healthy. There’s a duo in my building who work out together in the middle of the day at least once or twice a week. Being in that environment goes a little way toward making sure I’m not an obnoxious, overweight slob. I’m just an obnoxious slob. I can live with that.
So go be the change. Let people know you’re making good choices. Run for 30 minutes. Lay off the soda. Eat a salad.
Scratch that. Don’t eat salad. Not as a meal. That just sounds depressing.
Whatever. I’ve got some more people to talk to about the revolution. La resistance lives on.