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Healthy habits can be contagious

January 04, 2016

You share dinner with your kids, TV time with your spouse and lunches out with co-workers. Without even realizing it, you may be sharing your health (or lack thereof) with those close to you.

Research suggests that the habits — whether healthy or unhealthy — of those around us can influence our own habits. And our choices, including the foods we eat and the way we spend our leisure time, are likely to have a subconscious but significant impact on our friends and loved ones as well.

So, as we begin a new year and in the spirit of spreading good health, why not make a resolution that the habits you’re sharing will benefit everyone in your circle of health?

“It can be difficult to lose weight on your own in today’s environment,” said Heidi Meyer, MS, a behavioral health educator for Kettering Weight Loss Solutions’ Health Management Resources program. “You need to make long-term lifestyle changes and develop a healthy relationship with food and exercise. For many people this means committing to a weight-loss program incorporating the most current medical, nutritional and behavioral research. Such a program can help you create and maintain good health habits.”

As you are making your New Year resolutions, incorporate these tips to make your healthy choices a habit worth catching:

Band together to shed unwanted pounds. You might arrange a friendly weight-loss competition at work. Or you and a friend may decide to keep food journals. Sharing that information can help you both stay accountable for your food choices.

Create a healthy food contest. For family meals and friendly get-togethers, make it a challenge to plan a menu that is both healthy and satisfying. Share meal ideas with friends: Who can come up with the tastiest and healthiest recipes?

Make exercise a team effort. Let’s face it—we’re all much less likely to blow off a workout if someone is waiting on us. So make exercise dates with a friend, your spouse or your kids. You’ll be able to enjoy each other’s company and improve your health at the same time. If a little healthy competition is what motivates you to stay active, set up a video game fitness tournament. Soon you’ll be boxing and bowling your way to a fit physique — and having a lot of fun together along the way.

Kick the habit collectively. It can be extremely difficult to quit smoking if those around you are still lighting up. Recruit your smoking buddies to set a group quit date. Your fellow quitters will be an invaluable source of support. You can share the coping strategies that keep you from lighting up.