Discovery Vitality gives South Africans ways on how to maintain an exercise regime

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CAPE TOWN, October 3 – The behaviours and characteristics of people are influenced by the company they keep and this even includes the way they eat and their physical activity.

This is according to Discovery Vitality, which says research is increasingly demonstrating the power of social interaction and influencing human behaviour and this is because the way people act is strongly affected by their colleagues, friends and family.

Head of Vitality Wellness, Dr Craig Nossel, said: “Behavioural research shows that we’re all heavily influenced by the behaviours and characteristics of the company we keep – for example, you may eat less when surrounded by thinner people – and it seems that the same applies to physical activity.”

Nossel explained that two of the biggest drawbacks to starting and maintaining an exercise regime are motivation and staying power, but the solution to this may just be as simple as finding an exercise partner.

Researchers at the University of Aberdeen in 2016 found that enlisting a new exercise companion increases the amount of exercise people do and the frequency at which they do it. However, encouragement is more motivating than practical support.

Discovery Vitality said participants exercised better when their companions provided them with emotional support, more so than when their companions provided “instrumental” support like pitching up for every workout session.

Dr Pamela Rackow from the Institute of Applied Health Sciences explained: “Once we found that having a new exercise companion increases exercise frequency, we wanted to find out what quality of support has this effect. Our results showed that the emotional social support from the new sports companion was the most effective. Thus, it is more important to encourage each other than do the actual activity together.”

Rackow said humans are “social creatures” and training together taps into their human desire for approval and, along with increased accountability, exercising with others offers a greater sense of connection and satisfaction.

“Recent studies also show that exercising in a group improves quality of life and reduces stress far more than when you do so alone, and that, compared to other forms of exercise, participating in team sports has the biggest positive impact on mental health,” Discover Vitality added.

Discovery Vitality Biokineticist Mari Leach said: “In recent years there’s been an enormous amount of local and international interest in working out together, with increasing numbers participating in spinning, Cross-Fit, Zumba, boot camp and other fitness classes, as well as weekly park runs.

“What’s increasingly emerging are the benefits of exercising together instead of working out on your own,” she continued. “In terms of commitment, intensity and duration, research demonstrates that having people around you helps you to stay focused, achieve your goals and up your game.”

Discovery Vitality has been putting these learnings into practice with the recent launch of their 10-week Vitality Open campaign, which invites all South Africans to experience their Vitality Active Rewards programme. Members on the programme have been shown to increase their frequency of physical activity by 24 percent and when exercising, tend to exercise at a higher intensity.

In an effort to urge South Africans to move more and drive better, the Vitality Open campaign offers participants compelling incentives to achieve exercise and drive goals. When you achieve a goal, you get a play on a game-board, which can earn you beverages, meals and online shopping rewards at a range of reward partners. You can also use plays to gain a chance at winning prizes – like running shoes, flights and the latest iPhone.

According to Discovery’s The Road to a Healthier South Africa 2018 report, around half of South African adults live sedentary lifestyles. This is more than double the global average of 23 percent – making us one of the most inactive countries in the world, below Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Malaysia.

President-elect of the South African Heart Association, Dr David Jankelow said: “Multiple studies highlight that insufficient physical activity is a key risk factor for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), with cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes; and this is hugely problematic.

“In addition to being important in disease prevention, movement is also key to healing. Years ago, cardiac patients were kept immobile for an extended period, but today we know that getting these patients active is probably the most important thing we can do. The same goes for ICU patients.”

– African News Agency (ANA)