Written by KURA Guest Writer- Doris Lu-Anderson, PhD, E-RYT500, I-CAYT
We Are Together
Family and friends are part of our support team throughout life. Yes, they are our teammates. We may have different “teammates” throughout time, but we, as human beings, need that special someone to connect to. That special someone can be family, activity club friends, neighbors, high school friends, pets or even plants. According to Holt-Lunstand et al. (2010), an examination of 148 studies indicated that social connections — friends, family, neighbors, or colleagues — improve our odds of survival by 50 percent. The constant interaction is not only beneficial psychologically but directly related to our physical health. For people who have health issues, such as cancer, stroke, dementia, depression, and diabetes, having close connections is proven to have a significant impact on survival and the quality of one’s life. Furthermore, being part of a group is biologically comforting which gives a protective effect that seems to boost immunity and fights stress as well as inflammation. Being in a group or community, people feel responsibility for other people. The sense of purpose and meaning transforms folks to taking better care of themselves and taking fewer risks.
Harvard University’s Study of Adult Development, which tracked the lives of 724 men for nearly 80 years, offers insight into what can happen to an individual’s personal habits over time. The study found that the biggest secret to success and happiness is having a good relationship with friends and family. In addition, people can and do rewrite their life scripts, strengthening ties with family, friends, and acquaintances — and that can bring physical and emotional rewards (Mineo, 2017).
People need each other’s emotional support. Colberg et al. (2020) found that patients who were socially isolated or who lacked a close confidant were more likely to die after a heart attack than those with sufficient social support. Having the interacting experience is essential. Therefore, many cardiac patients share that their opportunity to engage with staff and other patients is one of the most valued experiences in cardiac rehab journey.
Cardiac patients and family members need to acknowledge the traumatic experience and fears that arise from going through a heart attack or receiving heart surgery. It is common to feel guilt, anger, fear, and sadness. However, cardiac rehabilitation is a journey which requires teamwork — the patient, family members, cardiac professionals, therapists, friends, etc. Also, spending time with loved ones such as family, friends, and even pets will help with the recovery process. Some people have emotional support pets or service dogs to accompany them. If someone’s living environment does not allow pets, perhaps visiting animal shelters, or even volunteering at an animal facility could help provide the comfort they need..
When practicing yoga or another form of exercise together, cardiac patients, friends, and family gain the combined benefits of being together, growing together, and encouraging each other to be active. It is like having a “training buddy”. Moreover, it becomes easier to stay in the rehab program and sustain a healthier lifestyle longer because of this “partnership”.
Also, not only do the patients need additional movements and healing time for themselves, but their supporting “teammates” need this time to restore themselves. It is a perfect “bonding” time to support each other and relax together.
Here are some tips to practice yoga and exercise together:
- Set up a routine and apply it
- Create a home yoga/exercise area
- If it is accessible, attend a yoga or an exercise class in-person or online.
- Prioritize the yoga/exercise bonding time on the schedule
- Develop goals and log your yoga/exercise.
- Be creative! If your yoga/exercise buddy does not live close enough, get on Facetime or other online apps and do it together in front of the camera.
- If you reach an improvement milestone, celebrate the little success!
- Relax, enjoy, and have fun!
One of the major risk factors for heart disease is social isolation. Having close connections with others can improve survival and well-being. Practicing yoga and exercising with friends and family combines benefits of being together, growing together and encouraging each other to be active. Give it a try and have fun!
Colberg, S. R., Fletcher, E., Goldstein, C., Gordon, P. J., Hughes, J., Myers, J., Pack, Q. R., & Robinson, K. (2020). Modifiable CVD risk factors. In American Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation [AACPR](Eds.). Guidelines for cardiac rehabilitation programs (6th ed.) (pp.97–148). Human Kinetics.
Holt-Lunstad J, Smith, T. B. , Layton, J. B. (2010). Social relationships and mortality risk: A meta-analytic review. Plos Medicine, 7(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316
Mineo, L. (2017, April 11). Good genes are nice, but joy is better. The Harvard Gazette. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/04/over-nearly-80-years-harvard-study-has-been-showing-how-to-live-a-healthy-and-happy-life/