THE SCIENCE FRIDAY POST THIS WEEK, May 11, will highlight findings of a survey by the Cigna Health Insurance company which sought to measure the level of loneliness across the USA. The results were unexpected.
Many, including me, would think that the most socially isolated and lonely persons would be older, above the age of 71. After all, if they once had had children, a spouse or partner, a job, and a social circle, wouldn’t a person of this age now be further removed from such supportive relationships? With retirement, health issues, losses of friends and family, children who live far away etc., they would be feeling more alone, it seemed likely.
Not so. Persons aged 72+ age generally didn’t consider themselves lonely. The groups identified in the Cigna survey as feeling most lonely was aged 18-22 years, then 23-37 years. Astonishing! These are the years ‘kids’ would be in college, graduate school, or fresh jobs, sparkly-eyed and eager to be a force for good in a better world. Younger generations represent the promise of a brighter future. What does this mean for the future?
The survey sited lack of ‘in-person’ contact as a major factor, and research has shown that lack of social connection is a health determinant, increasing the risk of premature death, even in youth.
The SCIENCE FRIDAY post will discuss this topic in more depth. In response, Earned Runs is planning to introduce a SUMMER CHALLENGE V FOR 2018, hoping to bring exercising people into closer contact with one another. To encourage “buddying-up,” either in person (or on the phone), both to enable in-depth conversations and bolster functional fitness.
Whether feeling lonely or not, motivation to reach out and connect with others while performing less than intense exercise might include maintaining your own sense of connectedness. Or improving that of others you care about, especially if they are in the younger age groups.
The Summer “Buddy-Up” Challenge V plan would be to request a set of bibs and “buddy-up” stickers. All season long, the goal would be to replace at least one weekly solo exercise session with one performed alongside, or on the phone in conversation, another person, a buddy.
The only situation in which the phone conversation will work well might may be on a brisk walk. I know, because I do this with my daughter and with friends. We agree that each will get out and walk when possible, when the other person calls. It may take up the time formerly reserved for a solo session (running, strength building, stretching, etc.) but it is an opportunity to connect in person.
Buddy exercising at home or work can represent a big logistical challenge, especially if on the spur of the moment you plan to hop out of a cubicle and locate a suitable path/route/area for a workout. A 10+ minute exercise session might be accomplished by going up and down flights of stairs in a building with multiple floors. Or walking around the building perimeter, if there’s an available sidewalk.
In years past for solo fitness breaks I would walk up and down the corridors of other departments in our building or between campus buildings to go to meetings, or use our conference room to get in a few planks. At home in good weather it’s easy to head out of doors. With a buddy, these breaks could be more difficult to arrange.
This challenge won’t be easy socially. It will require reaching out to another person and asking them to share a common goal. Possibly to be inconvenienced for the sake of bolstering a relationship. If you are the person taking on the “Buddy-Up” Challenge, you can invite several people, each having to connect while walking or exercising only occasionally, for example, once a month. However, the person doing the asking will appear to be the lonelier, needier one, even though the opposite may be true.
The SUMMER ‘BUDDY-UP’ CHALLENGE V will involve recording each “Buddy-Up” experience on an Earned Runs bib. By the end of the summer, 15 weeks from Memorial Day to Labor Day, there will be at least 15 marks representing 15 efforts made to connect “in-person” with others. If notations and details about each effort are also recorded, the bib can serve as a log of fond summer memories.
The “Buddy-Up” challenge is a first-time trial attempt by Earned Runs. It may not help generate ‘in-person” interaction as intended, but it is worth a try. Some researchers are predicting an epidemic of loneliness that will have detrimental health effects. That youth seem to be at greatest risk is alarming.
Your comments and suggestions on how to make this an effective challenge are welcome.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
BRIDGE TO PHYSICAL SELF
Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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