I think one of the most profound contributions a friend can make to your quantity and quality of life is to get you to exercise more than you would otherwise.
If you have a friend who is obese, you are 57% more likely to become obese (see infographic below) which is why the obese will become a majority by 2025 in the U.S.
There’s no study, but I wouldn’t be surprised if having a friend who does 100 mile running races makes it 57% more likely that you will also run 100 miles. Unfortunately, while over 120 million Americans are obese, only 11,000 Americans a year finish ultramarathons, so they are only 1/10,000th as available as friends.
If you have an ultramarathoner friend, consider yourself blessed. I do.
Today I had a friend take me out for a 28 mile bike ride by the beach in the morning, and another take me to Malibu Creek State Park for a 15.2 mile run/walk up and down some beautiful mountains.
Both companions had many interesting things to say, and I think I burned something like 4,500 calories today without really thinking about it too much.
Over the last few years, I have lost 87 pounds, without a diet or pills or surgery. What I did have is high quality friends who encouraged me to exercise, and ran, walked, lifted, and rode with me, and ate only quality food with me.
Diets have a shockingly low success rate. I have seen statistics claiming 2% success for weight loss of 25% or more of body weight that stayed off, based solely on diet.
Scientists have evaluated the claims of the results of X minutes a week multipled by Y months for Bow-Flex and many other widely advertised claims, and found zero delivered as promised. Exercise delivers the body you want eventually, but not in as few minutes or as few months as TV ads claim.
I realized today that only one thing works reliably: active friends who keep you active as the basis of the relationship.
If you keep communicating a positive message about the importance of exercise and eating good clean food, eventually the friends who would invite you to get wasted or eat junk food or sit and just spectate disappear, and the friends who think a two hour bike ride and a three hour run up and down a mountain, including five miles in the dark, coming across multiple rabbits, deer, and scorpions (I swear!), is fun…magically appear.
I realized tonight that friends who enjoy my company for hours of vigorous and sweaty activity are the essential and irreplaceable aspects of my reaching and maintaining a healthy weight and a happy life.
I only wish I had figured that our sooner.
You can help me make up for lost time: if you find yourself in Santa Monica, please be a great friend and exercise with me. Thank you in advance!
• Alex Lightman •