Anyone who survived middle school knows the power of the crowd, which can be bad but also work for your good. Like last summer when my then-8-year-old son conquered his rock-climbing fears during a father-son group camping trip. When asked what enabled him to get past the scary stuff, he answered with two words: peer pressure.
Peer pressure is a powerful force when it comes to fitness, too. For evidence, check out the American Fitness Index (AFI) report by the American College of Sports Medicine. It ranks the U.S.’s fittest metro areas and attests to the importance of “the tribe”: If the people around you are fit, you’re more likely to be fit, too.
For example, if most of your coworkers walk or bike to work—as a higher percentage of commuters do in Washington, D.C., the nation’s fittest city—you might feel a touch of shame when you pull into the parking lot in your gas-guzzling SUV. Or if the people in your circle spend their weekends hiking or stand-up paddleboarding, you might be tempted to ditch the couch and join them. Conversely, if most of your tribe is overweight or sedentary, chances are you are, too.
That leaves you with two options:
- Assemble a new tribe. Surround yourself with active people. Bonus points if they eat more fruits and veggies than doughnuts and fries.
- Be the example. To echo your mother, just because everyone is jumping off the proverbial cliff doesn’t mean you have to do it, too. Break from the crowd and plan something active for this weekend. Pack healthy snacks for it—and invite a few friends to join you. At the very least, you’ll be doing your part to boost your own metro area up a notch in the American Fitness Index—and show that maybe you learned something from middle school after all.
To see where your city currently stands in the AFI rankings, visit the AFI website.
Kellee Katagi is one of those strange souls who actually enjoys working out for the sake of working out. She’s spent most of her 20-plus-year writing and editing career covering fitness, nutrition and travel, as well as outdoor sports ranging from skiing to spelunking to street luge (yes, that’s a thing).