“You’re not what you eat — you’re who you eat with,” wrote Scientific American’s Christie Nicholson, reporting on recent research examining why our friends’ weight influences our own.The study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, found that overweight students were more likely to lose weight if they hung out with lean friends and gain weight if they hung out with obese friends, a clear nod to the influence of our social networks on our waistlines.
But the likelihood you’ll fit into those skinny jeans isn’t the only way your friends affect your health. In the slideshow below, we’ve rounded up some of the other healthy reasons to pick up the phone and call a friend today.
Friends Get You Moving
Research presented in 2012 found that something you might expect more from your mother — nagging — can actually work when it’s coming from a pal who’s pushing you to move more.
In fact, the least active interviewees in this particular survey said they needed and evenappreciated a nudge now and then from friends.
And working out with a friend has the added benefit of keeping you committed to your workout plan. There’s no rolling over to hit the snooze button on that a.m. run if someone is waiting for you to show up!
Flickr photo by geishaboy500
Friends Keep You Relaxed
Women in particular may be predisposed to the calming benefits of friendship. Researchers found that females release the hormone oxytocin when stressed, which encourages “tend and befriend” behavior, rather than the “fight or flight” reaction often observed in men, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. This encourages women to chat with their friends when stressed, and the chatting itself spurs the release of more oxytocin, which can have a calming effect.
Flickr photo by epSos.de
Friends Help You Live Longer
And in a recent analysis of 148 studies, researchers found that people with stronger relationships had a 50 percent greater chance of survival.
Flickr photo by egor.gribanov
Friends Boost Cancer Survival Rates
An older study followed 86 women with metastatic breast cancer for a year and found that the women who participated in a weekly support group lived twice as long.
Friends Lower Heart Disease Risk
Perhaps because of their relaxation powers, friends are also good for the heart. A 2005 analysis of social support theories found that weak social ties could double heart disease risk.
The link between social support and a healthy heart is even stronger for men who make one very special social tie official. Married men seem to experience a particular boost in heart health, WebMD reported.
Stronger social ties in general seem to lower blood pressure, which helps the heart.
Flickr photo by Brent Gambrell