Why a Fitness Funk is Contagious

What to look for in a fitness friend and how to avoid a fitness funk.

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Something I've been experiencing more in my life is how the people I surround myself with have such an impact on my energy. I always say energy is contagious, so I decided to expand on that thought.

You are a product of your environment. What you and the people around you do affects you in ways you probably don't recognize. If you are the most fit person in your crew, a "fitness funk" may be right around the corner if you don't open your eyes to the type of people you surround yourself with.

A study by University of California-Davis professor Scott Carrell found that college students who spent most of their time with 30 randomly selected undergrads adopted the diet and exercise patterns of the least fit person within their peer group. That means you can't hang with or get too comfortable around junk food junkies or sedentary slackers. If you want to be healthy you have to be around healthy people regularly.

[Read: 10 Excuses for Not Exercising and Why They Won't Fly.]

It's good to ask others what they do to stay fit and even better to incorporate other like-minded people into your fitness goal setting. But because there's so much misinformation, don't take anybody's word for what's best for you. Do your research.

It's your body, and you're responsible for it. No matter what Jack tells you he did to get six-pack abs or what diet Sara says helped her lose five pounds, consider the information, get good sources and do your homework before you jump on the bandwagon.

[See: Top-Rated Diets Overall.]

I'm not saying ditch your BFF because he or she can't run three miles without stopping, but honestly, you should surround yourself with a good fitness friend or two to keep at it. Here are some tips on how to do that, followed by steps to avoid a fitness funk.

The 5 Things to Look For in a Fitness Friend

• Dependability

What good is a friend who is not dependable? Being consistent, not only in communication but also in fulfilling promises, is a sign of a good fitness friend. You want somebody who says what he or she does and does what he or she says.

• Dedication

Commitment sets dependability apart from dedication. People can be dependably late or make excuses for why they can or can't do something. But dedication is motivating. That stick-to-itiveness will keep you on the go and help you both reach your goals (and keep setting new ones).

• Passion

Anyone who does something as a means to an end will eventually stop doing what got him or her to the end. But people who stay fit find their passion, and they use it to push themselves towards a healthier, more fit mind and body, with a lifetime in mind.

[See: 11 Health Habits That Will Help You Live to 100.]

• Positivity

Being at different fitness levels, whether you're above or below your friend's, requires a certain level of respect, trust and dignity. But none of this matters if the positive vibes aren't there. Comparing body parts or abilities can lead to healthy competition or unhealthy insecurity. Choose the positive route.

• Focused on fitness, not fads

If your workout partner gets most of his or her workout "advice" from TV or celebrity-centered articles, you have a problem. Find someone who really tries to learn the best way to take care of his or her body, not the most popular trend of the moment. In addition to a library, this person would be a part of a fitness community, subscribe to health magazines, journals or the like and take part in fitness-centered events such as charitable 5Ks, spectator sports, fitness challenges and mud runs.

[See: 10 Themed Races to Make Getting in Shape Fun.]

Action Steps to Avoid a Fitness Funk

• Be the change. If you're in the minority with your fit lifestyle, don't try to hide your healthy lifestyle to accommodate the group for fear that it may convict others. It's a balancing act, but don't hide your light. When people see the effects of a healthy lifestyle, they start wanting that for themselves.

• Keep an open mind. Many people judge a book by its cover. I can remember times when the contestants on my Season 11 of The Biggest Loser were looked at and judged by people for being "overweight." These cynical strangers did not realize some of them had already lost 150 pounds. Get to know people for who they are, and keep an open mind. You never know where your help is going to come from.

[Read: We're Not Fat Because We're Lazy.]

• Use the Golden Rule. Don't get so self-righteous about your fitness and healthy eating regimen that you feel as though you're better than someone else or have more "control." Everyone has their demons, so TREAT OTHERS THE WAY YOU WANT TO BE TREATED. Sometimes that may mean putting yourself in someone else's shoes for a few minutes before responding. Take the time to do that before you say or do something you'll regret.

Your thoughts...

List three of your best and worst fitness friends (they can be people or habits). How can you rearrange the time you spend with them to maximize your fitness level?

[Read: How to Overcome a Workout Rut.]

Hungry for more? Write to eatandrun@usnews.com with your questions, concerns, and feedback.

Well known for his work as a trainer on NBC's The Biggest Loser, Brett Hoebel is one of New York and Los Angeles' most popular fitness and nutrition experts. In addition to his certifications in nutrition, yoga and functional training, Hoebel was trained in martial arts (Capoeira and Muay Thai kickboxing) and has a pre-med, neuroscience background. He is the founder of Hoebel Fitness, a body-mind approach dedicated to inspiring healthy living, as well as the creator of in-home lifestyle-fitness programs RevAbs, reVamp, and his new 20 Minute Body program to debut in 2014. Hoebel believes in "fitness from within," acknowledging that a healthy life starts by changing yourself from the inside out.