Co-workers can positively influence a healthier lifestyle

Co-workers can positively influence a healthier lifestyle

When it comes to living a healthier lifestyle, listen to and watch your co-workers. Their positive habits could eventually help you.

That’s the main message from researchers in the Netherlands, who tracked the influence that employees can have on their colleagues when it comes to eating better and working out. While much is known about the effects that neighbors, friends and relatives have on lifestyle choices, there’s much less evidence about how co-workers influence those behaviors.

Using data from more than 4,300 people across 113 organizations, this is what the researchers found: People are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables when their colleagues encourage them. The same held true for exercise, although the effect was less pronounced. So why do our co-workers hold more sway over our eating habits than our exercise routines? The researchers theorize it may be a matter of proximity: Most people eat at work — often together — whereas exercise usually happens after work.

The study is one of the first to address co-workers’ influence on healthy behaviors. Unlike some prior research, it used an approach that allowed for a more fine-tuned analysis of the relationship between co-workers and healthier behaviors.

Now, the researchers said, workplace leaders and public policymakers can use the findings when making important decisions about ways to encourage healthier living. Colleagues can now be relevant sources of social support when it comes to healthy behaviors, just like friends and neighbors have been.

Keep up with your work friend in the next cubicle. Their good habits could soon become yours.

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