Social support is defined as the perception and actuality that one is cared for, has assistance available from other people, and most popularly, that one is part of a supportive social network. Scientists have even suggested that people with this kind of network around them can transcend even the worst environments and accomplish great things. The unfortunate truth however is that not everyone is a part of this type of supportive network. Some people face challenges by having a negative or toxic support system, or the lack of a support system altogether. This can cause often people to fall short of their goals and dreams.
This also ties directly into one’s fitness journey and the progress made over time with health and wellness. The effects of a negative or lack of social support system are well documented. The relationship between good social support and superior mental and physical health has been observed in diverse populations, including college students, unemployed workers, new mothers, widows, and parents of children with serious medical illnesses (Resick, 2001). An article from the journal Psychiatry (Edgmont) titled Social Support and Resilience to Stress (Ozbay, et al.) states:
"Social isolation and low levels of social support have been shown to be associated with increased morbidity and mortality in a host of medical illnesses. For example, in the well-known Alameda County Studies, men and women without ties to others were 1.9 to 3 times more likely to die from ischemic heart disease, cerebral vascular disease, cancer, or a host of other diseases within a nine-year period compared to individuals with many more social contacts. The effect of social support on life expectancy appears to be as strong as the effects of obesity, cigarette smoking, hypertension, or level of physical activity."
So what does this mean? What does social support look like? Well, most importantly, support looks different for just about everyone. Social support is commonly categorized into four types of behaviors: emotional, instrumental, informational, and appraisal.
- Emotional social support is defined as expressions of love, empathy, trust, and caring.
- Instrumental is defined as tangible aid and service.
- Informational is advice, suggestions, and information.
- Appraisal is the information that is useful for self-evaluation.
In fitness, these could look like getting cheered on by your peers, receiving a spot for a heavy lift, or a coach providing feedback about a movement or skill. It's important to understand these categories so individuals can identify the type of support they need most so their coach and community can provide it for them.
Having a social support system in the world of fitness can help create a strong community of like-minded individuals to boost morale and create an environment where every individual is welcome and supported through their own journey by empathizing with others’. This can have a direct effect on an individual’s motivation to train, which can also directly affect effort, which will directly affect outcomes!
At Central Athlete, we pride ourselves on cultivating this type of community amongst our clientele. The team at CA understands the value of having a strong social support network and we strive for all of our clients to be a part of this growing community by supporting each other inside and outside of the gym. Inside the gym, this is done through our On-Site Coaching Hours. This is where the community at CA can get together with one of the professional coaches to train, endure, and connect with one another through their own fitness journey. Outside of the gym, CA is always working to provide clients value by engaging in community events. Whether that’s going to Barton Springs for a swim, getting together for a hike on the Greenbelt, or providing workshops on-site (and online!), we consistently strive to bring our community together.
If you’re looking for a strong, active, and connected community, look no further than Central Athlete. We strive to provide this sense of social support as well as deliver the most accurate, science-based prescriptions for all exercise, nutrition, and lifestyle goals. Schedule a FREE strategy session with a professional coach and be a part of this growing community to reach far beyond your goals in fitness and in life.
- Ozbay F, Johnson DC, Dimoulas E, Morgan CA, Charney D, Southwick S. Social support and resilience to stress: from neurobiology to clinical practice. Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2007;4(5):35-40.
- Resick PA. Stress and Trauma. New York, NY: Psychology Press; 2001