MARQUETTE - When you think about wellness, you probably think of things like eating fruits and vegetables or hitting the gym several days a week.
What is sometimes overlooked, however, and can be important to success in other areas of wellness, are the relationships we form with others.
"There are several dimensions of wellness, and one of those is the social aspect," said Barb Coleman, a certified exercise specialist and professor at Northern Michigan University.
Negaunee Healthy Weight Journal participants exercise together at the Negaunee YMCA. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
YMCA trainer Ryan Weatherwax gives some instructions to the Negaunee team before they begin working out. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
Coleman recently attended the National Wellness Conference in Wisconsin, which focused this year on the importance and impact of connecting with those around you.
"It isn't a new concept. There's just more evidence," Coleman said. "People have to feel like they're valued."
For example, in the workplace, feeling connected to those around you is one of the factors that can impact your performance.
"If you've got a place where you're feeling valued, you're going to be more productive and you're going to be there," Coleman said.
The same effect can be seen in community and group environments.
"There are a lot of studies that look at where are these communities that are really well," Coleman said, adding that Marquette frequently is named as a "well" community. "When you look at communities that have a high importance on connecting with people, where you have a lot of community events."
From larger community events to something as simple as a group exercise class, Coleman said that group aspect is an important key to building those relationships, both with other participants and community leaders. Senior exercise classes, for example, keep participants coming back to class not just for the exercise it offers, but also for the chance to interact with others.
"It's very good for them," Coleman said.
The benefits of participating in a group can also carry over for those hoping to lose weight and eat healthier, particularly if those groups meet over a longer period of time and group members stay connected even after the group has officially finished meeting.
"If you look at groups who have success with long range, they have follow up," Coleman said. "Things where people have a one-shot (meeting) don't tend to have as much long-term success."
Knowing that others care and are concerned about your efforts can provided motivation to keep moving forward.
"People are here who care about me," Coleman said of the mentality a group atmosphere can provide. "There needs to be some support for what they're doing."
The same effect can be seen in online communities or groups that promote wellness or weightloss, provided participants use the online format to connect with each other, she said.
"I think many people thrive in a group setting," Coleman said. "Many people are social beings... I think it's a big advantage."
Those looking for a group to get involved in can still join The Mining Journal's Healthy Weight Journal Community Wellness Challenge, with group meetings in Negaunee, Ishpeming, Marquette and Gwinn.
Organizations from gyms to community centers to the area schools also offer a variety of exercise and enrichment classes.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.