[Updated from 2018]
LONELINESS WAS A TOPIC OF TWO EARNED RUNS BLOG POSTS IN 2018 (May 9 and May 11, 2018). The first post introduced a suggested use for Earned Runs bibs, in response to newly released, nation-wide Cigna Health survey results that revealed roughly 54% of Americans who had completed it would be considered lonely.
The survey cited lack of ‘in-person’ contact as a major factor. Research has shown that lack of social connection is a health determinant, increasing the risk of premature death, even in youth. The survey also revealed that the generations most likely to score higher on the loneliness scale were those 18-22 years old and then 23 to 34 years of age, Generation Z and Millennials, respectively.
The second post discussed the survey in greater detail as well as scientific literature which examined loneliness as a significant health risk. The risk, some scientists contend, may be more serious than obesity and could potentially reach epidemic proportions in the Unites States.
Earned Runs announced that it would trial a new SUMMER CHALLENGE to bring exercising people into closer contact with one another and encourage “in-person,” connections during less-than-highly-vigorous exercise sessions, in which conversation is possible.
I trialed that first “BUDDY-UP!” challenge in the summer of 2018 and found it succeeded in increasing my personal conversations, if not face-to-face contact, with family and friends during fitness activities. The conversations added to the enjoyment and healthy vibe of outdoor, summertime exercise opportunities. Some were scheduled phone-fitness sessions. Others resulted when unexpected calls were received. At these times I had gear ready to go for a brisk walk while talking.
The goal of SUMMER CHALLENGE V: “BUDDY-UP!” is to replace at least one weekly solo exercise session with one performed alongside, or on the phone in conversation with, another person, a buddy. During each of the 14 week season, Memorial Day to Labor Day in the USA. Challengers are encouraged to request or print Earned Runs bibs and to use them to record the days in which “buddy-up” sessions are accomplished.
The Cigna survey showed that persons who feel that they spend MORE THANTHE DESIRED AMOUNT OF TIME EXERCISING tend to be LONELIER than those in whom the time is just right and even those who think this time is less than desired! That this finding wasn’t a surprise was a warning sign that I needed this challenge.
One suggestion for a “BUDDY-UP” session would be to ask someone to power walk with you at lunch-time instead of running alone, or calling a friend or loved one during that vigorous effort and asking them to also walk, albeit in a different location, while you both talk.
For those with more discretionary exercise time, lacing up the shoes and heading out-the door as soon as the phone rings might work if an agreement was made beforehand to do this when either of you walks. Running or jogging at a slow pace in-person with a partner could be an excellent buddy-up activity as long as the exercise session was conducted at a low enough effort to facilitate friendly exchanges.
Last year I wasn’t certain the physical and social logistics of such sessions could be arranged for the sake of increasing connected-ness. However, I learned 'buddy-up’ exercise could be reasonably accomplished with a little effort and initial awkwardness; it was difficult to admit to others a need to boost social connections without using social media!
It worked, however, and I’ll be trying again this summer.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
NOTE: Why doesn't Earned Runs encourage joining an exercise class or running/walking club? In my experience these meet-ups tend to be either intense, physical activity sessions in which every attendee is focused on performance or a convenient gathering of like-minded enthusiasts. There aren’t opportunities to talk at length or in-depth, one-on-one. Conversations are, by necessity and intent, brief and casual.
It seems better to choose to connect with a specific friend or family member with whom there is the chance of a relationship than with a chance acquaintance in a group. Especially if most family-friend contacts have tended to be text messages or social media encounters. This ‘Buddy’-Up’ challenge is intended to fight loneliness, a feeling that can occur even in the midst of a crowd.
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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