My focus on the power of group continues this month as I keep finding research to support it. My latest discovery came out of the November-December issue of The Journal of Active Aging. According to a 79 year old Harvard Study of Adult Development, the world’s longest running study of the factors affecting health in later life, the single most powerful predictor of good health is positive relationships. This ongoing study evaluates a myriad of factors that affect how healthfully participants age. While factors including genetics, diet, exercise, drug and alcohol use, socioeconomic status and intelligence were measured, positive relationships stood out as the most significant; those who were most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 turned out to be the healthiest at age 80. Positive relationships with family, friends and community appear to better predict long, healthy, happy lives than all other personal and social factors. The opposite was also found in that those with absence of close relationships fostered poor health and decreased longevity. So what does this mean for our industry and for your business? By understanding the impact that quality relationships has on overall health and longevity, the fitness industry can promote this as one of the leading benefits of exercising in a group whether that be group fitness classes, small group training or a social ‘club’ within your facility. Dr Jeff Rossman, author of this ICCA journal article titled “Strong Relationships: A Prescription for Healthy Aging” shared his healthy tips for building strong relationships as we age and among them he recommended exactly that—to join groups. He also compared the benefits of positive relationships to the benefits of exercise and said “just as we strive to stay physically active in later life, we need to strive to stay connected with people, as the quality and quantity of our life depends on it”. Another big variable is positivity. Being around people who are happy, who choose to take good care of themselves, and choose to surround themselves with other positive, health-driven goals, is just one more way to develop and sustain relationships. So think about the opportunities you have to bring members together in your club or facility. Look for opportunities to foster healthy relationships with your members. While group fitness and small group training are two proven and powerful ways to accomplish this, think of ways to foster relationships with your new members as early in their membership life as possible. Leading in the front lines at GoodLife Fitness, as a group fitness instructor for the past 33 years, I am witness to the power that group has on people’s lives physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. With this new information I am more assured than ever that what I am doing for the participants in my classes is far more than providing them with an exercise response. It is providing them with a life line.