Social Connections Can Save Your Life: 5 Minute Dance Party Edition

I often hear from clients that they have a hard time getting to the gym, working exercise into their lives, and managing stress. The 5 Minute Dance Party is one of the simple tricks that I love to use in my own life and with clients.

It's as simple as it sounds and it's really helpful for relieving stress and getting you moving.  Just turn on a favorite up-tempo beat and work it out! I dance like no one is watching because no one is: I love to do this in my living room in my pajamas before I start my day or in my office if I'm feeling stressed. And while we all know that eating what serves us, moving our bodies, and sleeping enough are key to a healthy life, another important element to ensuring our wellness is the power of social connection. The 5 minute dance party is a great way to connect all of these important elements of wellness.

Studies show that social connection improves both psychological and physical wellness, and that not feeling connected to others is worse for our health than smoking and high blood pressure.

These studies show that those with a strong connections to others have a stronger immune system and recover from illness faster.  They also have lower rates of depression and anxiety, and have 50% increased life longevity.  While genetics are clearly an important determinant of health, epigenetics, or the interplay between genes and our environment, is proving to be equally and sometimes more important than the original code we inherited. Cole et al. found that genes coded for inflammatory response and immune function are effected by social connection, and strengthen or weakened respectively.

Empathy, self-esteem, trust and cooperation were also higher in folks with greater social connection, which makes sense: you reach out, feel and see that people like you and you like them, that makes you feel better about yourself, so you reach out more, and on and on. Sadly, the inverse is true: folks who don't connect outward with others can get stuck in a difficult negative feedback loop, which leads to declines in physical and mental wellness. 

Bottom line: Having social connection changes and improves gene expression and contributes positively to overall health and wellness.

Despite the benefits of social interaction, sociologists report that since the 1950s Americans have reported fewer close confidants. In 1985, people reported having 3 people who they could tell about a personal problem and really connect with. In 2004, surveys found that the average American had ONE person they could seriously confide in, and 25% of Americans reported having no one fitting the role of Confidant.

Working out with friends is SO much more fun!

Working out with friends is SO much more fun!

So how is this connected to the 5 minute dance party, you may ask?

Every coach will tell you that accountability and combining activities are key parts of Getting It Done. And we now know that social connection is one of the keys to longevity.  So how can we combine these things to ensure that we live long, happy and healthy lives?

Make increasing your movement a social activity! Build social connection (in person or online) into your movement routines and activities.

There are many ways to do this. Ask a friend to be your accountability pal. Check Facebook or meetup for exercise, meditation or yoga groups that already exist or start your own. If you don't have friends who exercise and none of your friends are interested, tap into other networks.  See if you can start a plank challenge or other type of challenge or group with your co-workers.  Find an online community for mutual support, where you can check in with people in other places about the exercise or other movement you're doing.

It's important to realize exercise doesn't have to mean going to the gym.  It could mean joining a dance class at your local community center, walking, taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator, taking a water aerobics class, doing yoga in person or finding a video online, or having a simple 5 minute dance party wherever you are.

My friend Felice and I would often have joint 5 five minute dance parties from across Brooklyn, each of us in our living room, busting a move. Accountability both to self and someone else is key to successfully making change, and knowing that Felice was waiting for my text message in the morning helped me keep movin' and groovin', while that social connection with her supports my overall wellness, my mental and physical health. Give it a try and see how fun and easy it can be to get 5 Minutes of movement into your day.

Ready to get more one-on-one support from a loving dedicated coach who believes in health at all sizes? Holler at me and let's see what coaching can do for you!