Daniel Freedman is the Co-CEO of BurnAlong, an online video and social motivation platform that works with companies, cities, universities, hospitals, and insurers. He is a former columnist for Forbes and began his career at the Wall Street Journal. He is the co-author of the award-winning, NYT top-10 bestseller, “The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda.” Daniel previously held senior roles at the United Nations, intelligence consultancy TSG, Apploi, and the U.S. Senate. He also co-founded CyecureBox, a counter-espionage product.

When I was a teenager, at camp, I fell about 8 feet, knee-first, onto a stone floor. The knee specialist I first saw told me that I might never walk again, let alone play sports or exercise. The diagnosis was devastating. 

With the guidance of doctors and a physical therapist, and the powerful social support of family and friends, I was able to rewrite my diagnosis. 

This experience, and the years in between, have highlighted some core social benefits of exercise, mindset, and social support that have played a role in why I started BurnAlong, an online health and wellness company, with my co-founder. It’s why we focus on providing both wellness for people of all abilities and social support (if wanted) to do it. The lessons learned through these experiences translate into every other area of life too. 

Let’s dive in. 

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Discovering the social benefits of exercise 

You join, and build, a community

With exercise, you have the opportunity to build relationships around a common goal or purpose. Think about your friends who religiously attend a specific gym, or the class of a single instructor, because of the connections they feel and have made while exercising. 

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Whether your goals are to lose weight, lift more, get a personal record, win a championship, conquer some new elevations, or simply to stay healthy, there are going to be groups near you that offer community, encouragement, and support to reach your goals

With community, you gain built-in accountability

The community you find can, in turn, be a supportive group to hold you accountable to your goals. Those social ties that keep pulling you back each time are the same ones that can help hold you to a commitment

Indeed a fascinating JAMA Internal Medicine study found that people were 67 percent more likely to stick to a healthy lifestyle change if their partner made the same change. “Wellness buddies,” as we call them at BurnAlong, make all the difference and are a core social benefit of exercise.   

Increase your awareness

When you exercise outdoors (or even when just going to-and-from your house for errands because any walking is exercise), you have a chance to learn about the environment around you, and where there might be gaps of service for others who are also looking to improve their health. 

This might seem like a surprising social benefit of exercise but if you are looking to learn more about your community — or for ways you can get involved to help improve the lives of those around you — something as simple as taking a walk can offer more than cardio benefits.

Build your confidence

If you have ever worked hard for something, you know there is a special confidence boost that comes from reaching your goal. But there is also satisfaction in the preparation itself. The journey is often just as important as the destination. Studies show that just seeing yourself as “an exerciser” and what you’re doing as “exercise” drives results in and of itself.  

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The challenge of working towards a goal also allows you to be more empathetic when you see others doing the same. Successes, and failures, in exercise can be lessons applied elsewhere too, which leads to the fifth social benefit of exercise. 

Learn boundaries

Have you ever pushed yourself a little too far in a workout and a subtle, or not so subtle, twinge reminds you for weeks afterwards that you have limits? 

Despite our best intentions, and no matter how noble the goal, the body has limits. While it is healthy to sometimes push them, it is extremely valuable to learn when you need to step back, take a break, build in rest, or say “no.” 

You can take those lessons you learn in setting boundaries and learning to rest and recharge into your relationships, work-life balance, or extracurricular commitments. While exercise, and the social benefits that come from exercise, are important they are also only one component of your overall health. Look for ways to pursue wellness holistically with healthy lifestyle choices in all areas of life and your workouts will benefit too. If you are looking for some additional suggestions, you can check out tips from BurnAlong experts here or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram