A newly developed mathematical model
incorporates the influence of social interactions on community exercise trends,
suggesting that interacting with moderately active people could influence
sedentary people to become more active.
In 2018, the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services published evidence-based guidelines outlining recommended types
and amounts of physical activity to promote health benefits for different
populations of Americans. However, national population-level trends suggest
that there has been little improvement in meeting these recommendations.
To help address this issue, Mema and
colleagues drew on previous research showing that social interactions with
peers can play a key role in boosting physical activity within a community. In line
with that knowledge, they developed a mathematical model that simulates how
social interactions can affect a population’s exercise trends over time. The
model incorporates data from the U.S. Military Academy.
The model simulations showed that, in the absence
of social interactions, populations experienced a long-term decrease in
physically active individuals, and sedentary behavior began to dominate.
However, when the simulations included social interactions between sedentary
and moderately active people, sedentary populations became more physically
active in the long term. Still, in simulations where moderately active people
became more sedentary over time, overall physical activity trends plummeted.
Mema E, Spain ES, Martin CK, Hill JO, Sayer
RD, McInvale HD, et al. (2022) Social influences on physical activity for
establishing criteria leading to exercise persistence. PLoS ONE 17(10):