Written by Ashley Dier / Toronto

We live in an age of influence. Obsessively streaming our daily activities through various social media outlets has become commonplace. Friends, family, strangers, our "followers" are bombarded with images and videos of our curated self image in over-filtered photos and 140 characters or less. We now influence with trending hashtags and witty puns as well as our actions. More than ever, the choices we make can have a positive or negative effect on those around us. But what if our message is one of fitness and a healthy lifestyle? How much of an effect can it have on others?

Our health, be it good or bad, is communicable. Studies show that many believe that their friends and family have the most impact on their lifestyle as it relates to health.

Jenny McConnell, Academy of Lions Coach has noticed positive lifestyle changes within her community. "The results I've achieved through commitment to healthy living seems to have registered with many of my peers in the running community. Be it all the women who have joined the all female bootcamp I started and coach every morning or many of the runners waking up every day for 6am Metcon classes, " she said.  Adding, "I think that because I worked really hard to be a well rounded athlete and had successful results, others took notice, committed to make the same choice and have since had equally successful results."

McConnell is correct, her peers were watching. The same studies also showed that people often turn to digital sources like social media when making health decisions. Much like everywhere else, not everything on social media is truly genuine. Something McConnell is aware of,  "I think if what you put out in to the world is truly authentic to your lifestyle and tastes, then it's [social media] an incredible tool and platform. Everything else is salesmanship," she said.

A commitment to a healthy lifestyle has a trickle down effect. My own personal lifestyle changes were heavily influenced by those around me. The desire to change was my own, but I quickly became inspired and often found myself looking to my peer group and social media for the extra push I needed. While I documented my journey, I noticed changes in those around me. My family began to make healthier life changes, becoming more active and asking questions. High school friends began sending messages letting me know how my making a chance inspired them to do the same. My Grandmother, while in her 80's, began riding a stationary bike averaging 40km's a day. Awareness of our impact on others is powerful, humbling, and inspiring.

When asked who most inspired McConnell on her journey, she too attributed it to her peer group. "I'm lucky. My inner circle is complied of people who are all extremely hard working and creative. They own their own businesses or are constantly working on projects to better the communities they're a part of. They give back and they care to contribute to the world in an interesting way. And they all work their asses off in the gym. Inspiration is in excess in my world," she said.

A commitment to a healthy lifestyle, for most, is about being the best version of oneself. Projecting a healthy, active lifestyle onto the world and a positive social influence will act as a catalyst for for those around to engage in similar behaviour, thus encouraging others to do the same. Build connections within your community and encourage a healthy lifestyle. Think before you post. 

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