Make weight loss a team effort for best results

by TMP Editor on March 5, 2012

Obesity is a disease that has become socially contagious. To combat the obesity epidemic, online competitions are emerging to encourage large social groups to lose weight. And a recent study suggests that weight loss works best when it’s a team effort.

Weight Loss as Team Effort

Social animals

Humans are social animals and the people around us are a powerful influence. Researchers from Brown University in Providence, RI have found that people have a greater chance to lose weight successfully when they surround themselves with people who have the same goal.  To reach this finding, The Brown study examined the effects of social influence on individual weight loss during an online weight loss competition.

Weight loss competition

The 2009 Shape Up Rhode Island (SURI) campaign was a 12-week statewide online weight loss competition designed by study co-author Rajiv Kumar, M.D. Participants signed up as teams and matched up against other teams in three divisions: weight loss, physical activity and pedometer steps. A total of 3,330 overweight or obese people formed 987 teams averaging between 5 and 11 members. Most of the teams competed in all three divisions.

The power of peer pressure

The power of peer pressure on weight loss was surprising. People who lost at least 5 percent of their body weight, the amount considered significant to improving health, were on the same teams. Participants reporting higher level of social influence by their teammates increased their odds of significant weight loss by 20 percent. The social influence effect was stronger than any other team characteristic.

The researchers suggested that teammates made a difference by enforcing accountability, clearly defining weight loss expectations and providing encouragement and support. Team captains also lost more weight than team members, possibly because of their increased motivation and sense of responsibility to set a good example. The study concluded that future weight loss team competitions could be even more effective by requiring team members to share the leadership role.

Friendship counts

Other studies have shown that couples are more successful than individuals at reaching weight loss goals because they make the effort together. If you’re single and need to lose weight, befriending fellow dieters and challenging each other is likely to increase your chances of success.

Source: Science Daily, Web MD, The Telegraph

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