There’s a good reason why #fitfam has become such a major hashtag in the world of fitness social media. Pursuing a healthy and active life is made easier and more enjoyable with your tribe at your side. And research has your client’s fam’s back in this one. Having a positive social support system in place for your client is identified as one of the best evidence-based practices we as trainers can do to help our clients succeed    (Center for Disease Control, National Institute of Health, Look Ahead Research Group). But recruiting your social network is a practice that is most powerful when it’s a habit and not just something they do in their more dire moments.
If you can help coach your clients to develop their cheer squad of friends and family, they are 72% more likely to succeed at their weight loss program . 72%! For anyone who has worked in the health industry, you know how impressive that is.
How does a social support system help clients succeed?
When you have your people in your corner, it’s easier to keep on keepin’ on. One study identified that most people in a weight loss program enjoyed the encouragement, and motivation they received by their friends and family —it built excitement during successful times, and it kept them going during hard times. This makes sense. Who doesn’t find it useful turning to friends when times are tough?!?
Great friends and family pump our tires and provide us with an increased feeling of capability. One hundy you should care if your clients feel capable in achieving their goals! Clients with a greater sense of efficacy (the belief in one’s ability to achieve something) are more likely to obtain their goals, and stick to long-term change and fitness programs. That’s exactly what researchers found when they dug deeper into what effects social support has on the individual. Those with significant social support reported increased feelings of autonomy (capacity to decide for oneself) and a sense of the effectiveness of their actions . These two things increase your client’s internal motivation, which is key to long-term behavior change and success ! So go off and get your clients to build their habit of using social support!
Encouraging clients to leverage their networks
Hyping up your client’s support network early in their training helps put this motivation guard in place before the loss of motivation occurs. While this might not be the first habit you build with a new client, it will likely be within the first few months.
Getting your client to specifically make promises to work out on certain times and days to friends and family can help them stick to their regimen. Recruiting accountability partners within their own social network puts the responsibility on your client, and in a lot of cases will increase your client’s workout compliance. Who wants to break a promise made to a friend?!?
Building that tribe
As a trainer, another way you can leverage a social support network is to build it for your client! Having a community of peers can be even more effective than using friends and family. In a study looking at effective support systems for weight loss, having a support group comprised of non-friends lead participants to be up to 80% successful in weight loss  .
One of the ways you can do this is through Trainerize’s group features. Gather your online, or in-person personal training clients (who probably don’t see each other) on a group chat thread. To get the conversation flowing in the group, try starting a monthly group challenge, or asking questions about everyone’s challenges with their training and what they did to get around it.
One side benefit from the motivation client gain will be the capacity to learn from each other’s experiences and could share things they learned about health and nutrition . This is obviously a great thing when those in a group start teaching each other (takes some of the work off your plate!).
Recruiting social support in a nutshell:
- Social support provides priceless encouragement and motivation to clients.
- Having a support net increases a client’s belief in their capacity to succeed in the long-term.
- Encourage clients to use existing social support (current friends or family), or create new social networks for them (online support group in Trainerize or yourself).
- This makes a great habit for beginners or intermediate clients.
- Prevention CfDC. (2009). Healthy weight—it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle. http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/index.html. Accessed 23 Nov 2009.
- NIH. (2009). Weight loss/dieting. http://health.nih.gov/topic/WeightLossDieting. Accessed 23 Nov 2009.
- Look Ahead Research Group. The Look AHEAD study: A description of the lifestyle intervention and the evidence supporting it. Obesity 2006;14:737–752. 2.
- Hwang, K. O., Ottenbacher, A. J., Green, A. P., Cannon-Diehl, M. R., Richardson, O., Bernstam, E. V., & Thomas, E. J. (2010). Social support in an Internet weight loss community. International journal of medical informatics, 79(1), 5–13. doi:10.1016/j.ijmedinf.2009.10.003
- Moreno-Murcia, J.A., Belando, N., Huéscar, E., & Torres, M.B. (2017). Social support, physical exercise and life satisfaction in women. Revista Latinoamericana de Psicología, 49(3), 194–202. doi:10.1016/j.rlp.2016.08.002
- Verheijden MW, Bakx JC, van Weel C, Koelen MA, van Staveren WA. Role of social support in lifestyle-focused weight management interventions. Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. 2005;59 S1:S179–S186.