Friendship, fun movement, and false dichotomies

This weekend’s hot New York Times Health story, Smash the Wellness Industry, appeared multiple times in various social media newsfeeds. A few blog readers and Facebook page followers even messaged me about it. That’s how much up our alley it is.

Here’s a quote from it:

“If these wellness influencers really cared about health, they might tell you that yo-yo dieting in women may increase their risk for heart disease, according to a recent preliminary study presented to the American Heart Association. They might also promote behaviors that increase community and connection, like going out to a meal with a friend or joining a book club. These activities are sustainable and have been scientifically linked to improved health, yet are often at odds with the solitary, draining work of trying to micromanage every bite of food that goes into your mouth.

The wellness industry is the diet industry, and the diet industry is a function of the patriarchal beauty standard under which women either punish themselves to become smaller or are punished for failing to comply, and the stress of this hurts our health too.”

Mostly I liked the message. That story quotes from an older piece in Scientific American about the health benefits of social connections.

“A long lunch out with co-workers or a late-night conversation with a family member might seem like a distraction from other healthy habits, such as going to the gym or getting a good night’s sleep. But more than 100 years’ worth of research shows that having a healthy social life is incredibly important to staying physically healthy. Overall, social support increases survival by some 50 percent, concluded the authors behind a new meta-analysis.

The benefit of friends, family and even colleagues turns out to be just as good for long-term survival as giving up a 15-cigarette-a-day smoking habit. And by the study’s numbers, interpersonal social networks are more crucial to physical health than exercising or beating obesity.”

But that’s a false dichotomy, exercise or social connections. (What’s a false dichotomy,? From Wikipedia: False dichotomy is a dichotomy that is not jointly exhaustive (there are other alternatives), or that is not mutually exclusive (the alternatives overlap), or that is possibly neither.)

For many of us, exercise is a thing we do with friends. It is our way of connecting with others socially. I know very serious athletes train alone following a personalized training plan but that’s not my world. My exercise world is mostly about doing fun physical things with friends.

There is a group of us associated with the blog all training for a long cycling holiday in Newfoundland. We’ll have the time away together but we’re also ramping up our weekend riding. We’re putting kilometers on the bike, stopping for coffee and lunch and mid-afternoon ice cream. Here’s Sarah, David and me.

Samantha, Sarah, and David having second breakfast at a cafe in Hespeler.

While I was out riding with Sarah and David, Susan was out riding with Cate, and Tracy was out at hot yoga + brunch with friends in London. That group’s photos shared on Facebook often make me wish I still lived in London and could go to hot yoga + brunch with Tracy. They look like they’re having fun

Now I will say that my recent knee woes have made me rethink doing all my social activities in the context of sports and working out. I’ve given up soccer and Aikido and I miss those communities so much. I thought that I’d just move and find a new martial arts community but the injured knee can’t take that. Snipe sailing has been a good alternative. It’s outdoors and active and I like the people even if it’s not as physical as the stuff I used to do.

So maybe don’t put all your social connections in one basket. But still, my main point is that social connections don’t compete with physical activity. For the curlers and the golfers and the runners and the cyclists and the derby girls these things definitely go together.

Let’s go for a bike ride, friends!

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