Is Community the Medicine You’ve Been Missing?

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After a year of social distancing, it’s not surprising that many feel isolated or lonely. What may surprise you though is the impact of that isolation on your health. As researchers explore the physical and mental aspects of being apart, we are starting to understand that connection is as vital to our health as water, good food and exercise.

Studies show that social isolation has the equivalent impact of smoking 15 cigarettes a day, consuming 6 alcoholic beverages or being sedentary. The wellness implications are so significant that social isolation is now considered the leader of all-cause mortality and can decrease life expectancy by up to 8 years.

The news isn’t all bad though. As humans we are wired for connection. When we gather meaningfully, clinical wellness measures improve. You know that saying “it takes a village?” Studies looking at the benefit of community health prove that to be both current and true. We know that when women gather prenatally to learn about their pregnancy health, birth weights are improved. When measured before and after, people who participate in lifestyle modification classes often decrease their markers for chronic disease. Another example is seen in women who gather to learn about their hormonal cycles and later report fewer physical symptoms of PMS.

We need each other. Our health depends on it.

So if you have been hesitant to sign up for an online class or join a new group, here is why I think you might want to reconsider.

#1 – Accountability

You may be willing to give up on yourself when it comes to your health but chances are you won’t disappoint a friend. When we gather we create communities of accountability. Our compliance toward suggested changes improves and we become more responsible for our well being. We have seen this first hand both in our women’s health program, The Wild Collective and our teen group program, The Teen Collective.

#2 – Accessibility

It is no secret that quality one to one healthcare can be expensive and while I believe it is a very important investment in your health, group care offers access to excellent care at a reduced cost barrier. Economic studies put it on par or less than your daily coffee spend when averaged over time. Better yet, with so many practitioners and professionals going virtual, there is an opportunity to reach a broader audience while also giving that audience a wider variety of options.

#3 – The Ripple Effect

You may be familiar with six degrees of separation but were you aware of the 3 degrees of influence? Simply stated when you connect with someone who has a positive influence on your physical or mental health, you will carry over that influence to positively impact your connections. If we all did this the ripple effect to our communities would be overwhelming.

So whether you are zoomed out or just tired out, I strongly encourage you to seek out opportunities to come together in health. Intentional connection is critical to managing the impact of social isolation.

As Brene Brown so eloquently says, “you don’t have to do it alone. You were never meant to.”

Interested in learning more? Join me in May to learn about how the science of connection and community has helped me finally overcome burnout. We will also be giving you everything you need to know about The Wild Collective. You can save your spot here.

Melanie Stevens Sutherland, Clinic Director & Senior Orthopaedic and Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist

Melanie is a graduate of McMaster University and brings 17 years of experience as a senior physiotherapist to Body Co. She has enjoyed a long tenure working with active populations at prestigious sport medicine clinics. Past clients include Provincial, National and Olympic level athletes as well as members of the National Football League, the Canadian Football League, the Ontario Hockey League, the American Hockey League, the National Lacrosse League and Major League Soccer.

Following the birth of her own children, Melanie developed a strong interest in women’s health. She has taken specialized courses in pelvic floor physiotherapy and women’s nutrition. She is passionate about helping women find strength and confidence in their post-natal bodies following pregnancy and delivery.

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