BFF: Benefit From Friendships

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I’m reading a great book right now: Friendfluence, by journalist Carlin Flora. As the title suggests, the book examines the ways in which our friends influence us. From our personalities to our choices to our emotions, habits, and self-perceptions, friendship, argues Flora, strongly helps determine who we are.

Unsurprisingly, this holds true for physical fitness too. As Flora puts it, “We seek out health and weight-loss advice, but the most effective plan might be to hang out with fit friends. Not only do they make it easier for us to eat better and work out by setting an example and dragging us along on active outings, but they also provide the human connection that fosters robust physiological characteristics, such as lower blood pressure and increased immunity.”
Pick up almost any women’s magazine and you’ll find an article that offers you advice along those same lines: Want to lose weight? Find a friend! That’s because studies and surveys have shown that people are more likely to achieve their weight-loss goals, or at least to lose more weight, when they work out with others.

Even more significant, perhaps, is how similar to you your workout comrades are. Flora cites an experiment conducted by MIT, which found that people were more likely to start using a diet diary if others using the diary in their online network were similar to them. “That,” she argues, “indicates that having a workout or weight-loss buddy ‘just like you’ will motivate you to adopt better strategies.”

What do these facts mean for health clubs and fitness centers? Start thinking about how you can capitalize on friendship. Can you offer special “friendship deals”: classes half off for members and their friends, if they bring them? Or membership drives in which anyone who becomes a member by a certain date wins a month’s free membership for a friend? Or maybe a “Friday is Friend Day” initiative: bring a friend to the gym for free on Fridays. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. And the potential results? Members or clients who lose the weight they want to lose, or who meet other fitness goals, are likely to be happy, long-term members or clients. Plus, you might find yourself on the receiving end of a two-for-one deal: Your member’s friend might well decide to join herself. This, as Flora explains, is the power of friendfluence. It’s a power you can tap into.

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