Social support: Your total-fitness strategy

The company you keep and the support you receive influences your health and performance. Social support comes in many forms. Your family, friends, coworkers, and community might support you emotionally by expressing empathy, care, and love. Their support also can come in the form of useful advice or help with tasks. Through any or all of these ways, when you feel supported by others, you’re more likely to excel in your total-fitness pursuits. During HPRC’s #GotMySix campaign, learn how your sources of support impact your total fitness.

#GotMySix and exercise

Support from family and friends can help you achieve your fitness goals—whether you’re improving your run time or recovering from injury. Maybe your buddy goes with you to the gym and spots you while you lift weights. Or you have a certain friend or family member who encourages you to work out when you really don’t want to. Maybe she or he reminds you about the importance of rest and recovery for optimal performance. It’s important to recognize those cheerleaders in your life—whether they’re on the sideline or sweating it out beside you.

#GotMySix and mental fitness

Your sources of support boost your mental fitness when they notice your feelings and listen to your concerns. Strong emotional support from others can help ease the transition post-deployment too. For example, greater levels of perceived support during post-deployment are linked to Service Members’ enhanced senses of confidence, competence, and even humor. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms also decrease faster for Service Members who report feeling socially connected and supported. On the flip side, those who experience a lack of social support are at higher risk of depression and suicidal thoughts. Social support enables mental toughness too. Setting goals alongside others can help you reach those goals faster and stay accountable as you make progress.

#GotMySix and nutrition

Who’s “got your six” when it comes to nutrition and healthy eating? Maybe your friends encourage you to make healthy choices when you eat out together. Or your spouse or partner makes weekly grocery runs so fruits and vegetables are always available at home. Maybe your grandma sends you care packages with your favorite healthy treats during your deployment.

Social support impacts how you nourish yourself too. For example, Veterans who eat meals with their loved ones or close friends are more likely to eat healthier foods. Those who receive support from spouses and partners during recovery from illness tend to eat more fruits and vegetables as well.

#GotMySix and relationships

Social support comes in many forms and offers benefits for both giver and receiver. Strong, supportive relationships can contribute to less risk-taking, feeling less lonely, and greater belief in your ability to be successful. Those who socially support others report feeling happier and less stressed. Military spouses who feel supported and part of a network also tend to cope well with the stress of deployments. When people report being lonely and without support, they’re likely to feel more distressed and make unhealthy choices.

Debrief

When it comes to total-fitness performance, social support is a key strategy. Feeling connected to people can help you focus on your personal goals. During HPRC’s #GotMySix campaign, think about who’s “got your six” as you work towards your physical, emotional, nutritional, and relational performance goals. Tag them on social media, say thanks, and include #GotMySix in your post.

References

Cunningham, C. A., Weber, B. A., Roberts, B. L., Hejmanowski, T. S., Griffin, W. D., & Lutz, B. J. (2014). The role of resilience and social support in predicting postdeployment adjustment in otherwise healthy Navy personnel. Mil Med, 179(9), 979–985. doi:10.7205/MILMED-D-13-00568

Debeer, B. B., Kimbrel, N. A., Meyer, E. C., Gulliver, S. B., & Morissette, S. B. (2014). Combined PTSD and depressive symptoms interact with post-deployment social support to predict suicidal ideation in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom Veterans. Psychiatry Res, 216(3), 357–362. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2014.02.010

George, M., Eys, M. A., Oddson, B., Roy-Charland, A., Schinke, R. J., & Bruner, M. W. (2013). The role of self-determination in the relationship between social support and physical activity intentions. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 43(6), 1333–1341. doi:10.1111/jasp.12142

Hoerster, K. D., Wilson, S., Nelson, K. M., Reiber, G. E., & Masheb, R. M. (2016). Diet quality is associated with mental health, social support, and neighborhood factors among Veterans. Eat Behav, 23, 168–173. doi:10.1016/j.eatbeh.2016.10.003

Van Winkle, E. P., & Lipari, R. N. (2013). The impact of multiple deployments and social support on stress levels of women married to active duty Servicemen. Armed Forces & Society, 41(3), 395–412. doi:10.1177/0095327x13500651