Group of people doing flexibility exercises

Top 8 Social Benefits of Exercise: More Than Just Physical Health

Most people are aware that physical activity has numerous physical benefits for your health. Exercise can reduce your risk of chronic conditions, improve lung health, and help you manage your diabetes.

But did you know that physical activity also has many advantages for your social health and how you interact with others?

In this article, we will discuss some of the awesome social benefits of exercise and how you can achieve them.

Common Reasons to Exercise

Most people have been told by their doctor, or their family, or the infomercials on TV that exercise is good for you. The most common reasons that people exercise are all physical motivations.

Weight Loss

It’s no secret that physical activity is a key piece to the weight loss puzzle. According to the CDC, over 75% of American adults are overweight or obese, so weight loss is definitely a hot topic when it comes to reasons to exercise (1).

Prevent chronic conditions

Many people also exercise to improve their health and prevent or manage chronic diseases. Regular physical activity has been associated with a reduced risk of up to 40 different chronic conditions, including Type 2 Diabetes (2).

Building Strength

Whether you are looking to build muscle or increase mobility, regular exercise is a great way to increase your strength (3). 

Social Benefits of Exercise

But these benefits of physical activity are probably not why you clicked on this article. Let’s take a look at the top 8 social benefits of exercise.

  1. Self-confidence

By building strength and accomplishing your fitness goals, you can increase your self-confidence in your abilities. This benefit can often flow over into other areas of your life, giving you confidence in your daily interactions, as well (4).

  1. Self-sufficiency and Independence

Prioritizing exercise and increasing mobility can promote self-sufficiency. For many older adults, a loss of independence is a hard pill to swallow, and exercise can help you to stay independent for as long as possible (5, 7).

  1. Combat Loneliness and Exclusion

Exercise, especially in a group setting, can also help to combat feelings of isolation (6). 

This is extra relevant as we’re coming out on the other side of a global pandemic. Quarantine and social distancing had huge impacts on social and mental health, and group exercise can be a great way to get back out into the community.

  1. Community Growth

You can grow closer to your community by getting involved in a group exercise program or inviting your neighbor to exercise with you. Getting to know your neighbors can have big impacts on your sense of belonging.

  1. Improved Brain Health and Cognitive Function

Research has also shown that physical activity can help your brain to function better (8, 9). Have you ever dealt with brain fog or forgetfulness? It’s hard to be a good friend or have positive social interactions when you aren’t fully present. Exercise can help!

  1. Increased Happiness and Energy

On a similar note, I know I am a better friend (acquaintance, family member, etc.) when I am happy and have a good level of energy. Exercise has been shown to improve both of these qualities (10, 11).

  1. Discipline and Accountability

Exercise is a great way to build self-discipline and work on accountability. It can be hard to get into a routine of daily physical activity. But once you build that habit, this self-discipline can impact other areas of your life.

Accountability and discipline are important qualities for the workplace, social interactions, and overall happiness. I know I personally feel kind of discontent when I have neglected to practice discipline and fail to stick to the goals that I have set for myself.

  1. Improved Sleep

And last but not least, exercise can improve sleep duration and quality, as well (11, 12). Adequate rest is not only important for physical health, but it is also essential for social and mental health. 

How to Increase Your Exercise

So now that we know about all of the important social benefits of exercise, what steps can we take to achieve these results? Here are just a few examples of ways you can get involved in regular physical activity. 

Group Classes

Many gyms or other organizations (like yoga studios or wellness centers) will offer group exercise classes. These could range from walking groups to more intense boot camp classes or CrossFit. Group classes can be a great motivator to increase your physical activity and have fun while doing it!

MeetUp Groups

If you are looking for a group to join to help with motivation and accountability, meetup.com is a fantastic way to find people at your fitness level who enjoy similar activities. You can filter the site by category and find events and groups near you for anything from walking and running to Zumba and kayaking.

Step Challenges

If you are more motivated by competition, step challenges can be a great way to get active while enjoying the social benefits of exercise. Fitbit has many challenges to encourage you to walk, including the Workweek Hustle and the Weekend Warrior. If you are interested in purchasing a Fitbit, you can check out their products at fitbit.com.

Another option for step challenges is the app, StepBet. With this phone app, you can choose a challenge and place a bet on yourself. When you reach your personalized step goals at the end of the game, the pot is split between the winners.

Set SMART Goals

Research has shown that people are most successful with routine physical activity if they set a goal for themselves (13). Have you heard of SMART goals? These goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. 

Your goal doesn’t have to include all 5 characteristics, but the more of these that you use, the more likely you will actually achieve your goal.

Rather than “I’m going to exercise more often,” try “I’m going to walk 4 days per week for 30 minutes for the next month.” This goal is specific, measurable, and time-bound. You can always adjust your goal or set a new goal once you have accomplished it.

Photo Credit: https://fullfunctionrehab.com/smart-goals/

More Ideas

Still looking for more ideas to help increase your exercise? Check out my blog post on Exercise that Doesn’t Feel Like Exercise for more ways to make physical activity more fun!

Conclusion

Do you have more motivation to exercise now? I sure do! Physical activity can be a great way to achieve not only physical improvements, but also many social perks, such as better self-confidence and discipline. 

There are many ways to increase your exercise in a fun way. So let’s get out there and start to experience the numerous social benefits of exercise!

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