Unless you play team sports, working out is a usually a solo activity. You might browse #fitspo posts on Instagram, but at the end of the day, it’s just you alone in the gym. However, a new study shows that our workout habits might be influenced by our surroundings more than you think.
The five year study by the MIT Sloan School of Management analyzed the exercise patterns, locations and social networks of more than one million people and found that comparing our workout results causes you — and your friends — to actually exercise more.
While having a real life workout buddy is helpful, the benefits are there whether you physically work out together or not. Just seeing your friend’s progress online is enough to motivate you to get off the couch.
The key to workout motivation seems to be triggering our competitive side. If we see on Facebook or any other social media platform that our friend had a particularly impressive workout, we subconsciously take that in and push ourselves to exercise harder and faster.
On the flip side, the study also found that our lazy friends can also impact our workout. Co-author of the study Sinan Aral explained to The Cut, “people who are less active influence people who are more active with a greater magnitude than the other way around. Couch potatoes influence marathoners more than marathoners influence couch potatoes.”
Interestingly, researchers also found that while men were influenced by both male and female friends, women were only influenced by other women.
Overall, the study’s message is who you hang out with matters. So while your friends constant gym selfie and Fitbit stats might be annoying — they’re actually making you healthier.