Lean on me! Social support for those tough times

When you’re going through a tough time, you probably lean on some friends and family to support you. The same kind of support can help you stay more physically active or to sustain lifestyle change. There are many different types of social support. All of them are important and can be provided by many different people in your life.

Types of Social Support

Instrumental: This includes tangible help and could include things like childcare while you’re going to the gym, providing you with fitness equipment, etc. Parents tend to provide this type of support to their children. Fitness instructors provide this type of support to their clients by providing a location and the exercise class plan.

Informational: Advice and suggestions. You typically receive this type of support from health and fitness professionals. For example, a personal trainer explaining correct exercise technique to you

Companionship: The availability of other people that can do things with you. People that have larger social networks (not the electronic kind) for activity tend to stay more accountable. Pets provide lots of companionship support. Dog owners tend to be more active because they feel guilty about not walking their dogs. Avoiding this guilt is a strong motivator to get out and walk.

Validation: This comes from when you can compare yourself to others in a similar situation and confirm your thoughts, feelings, struggles are “normal”. For example, if you go to a really tough bootcamp class and are very sore afterwards, checking in with other participants at the next class and seeing that they were also sore can normalize it and not make you feel alone.

Emotional: emotional support is the softer side of social support. It includes others expressing empathy, love and caring towards you. For example, if you are having a stressful week and your trainer can tell you aren’t fully present, perhaps they take it a little easier on you and let you talk through what is bothering you instead of ignoring those signs and making you push through it. On the other side, they may know you well enough and know that you need to do a gruelling workout to burn off some of the stress.

Why Does It Matter?


Research has shown that receiving social support from family members and other important figures in your life improves your attitude about being active. The type of social support you require can change based on what your needs are. For example, if you have been regularly exercising but have injured yourself you might need more informational support from a physiotherapist to help you get active again. If you find you know how and why you should eat healthy but you aren’t doing a great job with meal prep, maybe you need some companionship from a friend or family member to cook with on the weekend.

by Lauren @beneFIT Lifestyle

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