Fitness, like many things, can connect people, giving you a social "Tribe" that you can become a part of. Social media doesn't necessarily make us more social, it gives us the opportunity to reach out to more people, but without actually socialising. Originally, we come from small tribes of about 30-200 people, in these settings you would know the majority of the people very well. This is because there was less distractions and more time for connecting with your fellow man.
These days we have the opportunity to meet more people than ever, yet many are still lonely. One of the things that would bring these groups together would be the necessity to eat and survive. As humans we are stronger and more efficient together in groups, you could say we are pack animals in that regard. The necessity to eat would require great communication on the local edible plants and foliage, on the migration of animals, their habits, and habitats. None of this knowledge came for "free" like it does in western society today (I use this word lightly, not talking about money.) Now, with minimal effort you can acquire food. Thankfully, we have advanced far in this sense. We have smart fridges that can automatically Re-order food to be delivered to your house the next day without even needing you to confirm the order, because it knows you always stock that item in. Or with a few clicks of a button on a computer food can be delivered. Even shopping is easy in comparison to being on the land hunting or foraging. Back when we had to hunt and gather the food or resources needed to live, it came at a price that money and our advancements cannot relate to, that is energy & connection.
The energy it would take to stalk an animal for 3 days across the savanna, or to gather eggs from a cliff edge. The energy to paddle up stream to where the fish settle to spawn their young, the energy it would take to harvest vegetation all day under the hot sun. I have personally found that activities that require energy expenditure bring people together!
Throughout my life so far I have taken part in many different sports and physical activities, so far I've done; Rugby, Rock climbing (both in and outdoor), Parkour, Skate boarding, BMXing, Snowboarding, Scooter tricks, Roller Skating, Weight lifting, and Dancing, and in every discipline I have made new friendships! It is fairly irregular to meet a person on the street and become great friends with them, unless you are truly an extrovert. Usually you need a mutual friend to introduce you, a common hobby, or some kind of formal education, training, or being in the same workplace. That's how most people begin relationships these days.
Sharing a common hobby is a great conversation starter, especially if you meet in an establishment where people are practicing the skills you enjoy! I couldn't count the number of times I've been in a rock climbing gym and a stranger has come over to me to learn the technique I was using, or given me pointers on how I could do a certain move in a way that I would not have thought of. Likewise, the amount of times I've been in a skate park and spoken to a new person, and then we’ve ended up playing a game where we challenge one another to do specific tricks. For example, failing to do the trick in 3 attempts results in you gaining "a letter", the first person to get the chosen word is the looser. This makes us push our own skills, our limits, and boundaries, all while making a friend and helping them grow at their craft.
These examples could go on. Sometimes they are just one second friendships and you never see them again, other times you occasionally speak when in the gym at the same time. But sometimes, they can results in something more. The relationships gained that are the most beneficial to your metal health are those that become true friendships. This has happened to me many times because of the various sports I've practiced and activities I've done. This beautiful phenomenon of life continues to happen to me to this day. Because of exercise I have made friends from all walks of life, different economic background, different religious beliefs, and different ethnicities. I have found my tribe. If you have an open mind there is honestly no limit to the people you can meet when engaging in a physical challenge or sport.
It doesn't make sense in this day and age to hunt and gather all our own food, unless you want to, it takes up too much time and we have found solutions to this time consuming task. So how have people suffered from the lack of movement and communication?
Before I answer that I will have to say that we live in the best time ever in history. There are more intellectual jobs, we have more free time than any of our ancestors, and the accumulation of knowledge is more abundant. Most people in this day and age live better than a King did 200 years ago due to all our advancements. We know more about the human body than ever before. We know what fuel we should and shouldn't be consuming through our diet, what exercise routines will affect the body in certain ways, we have more advanced technology to improve the body, and track its progress. Take smart watches as an example, they vibrate when you’re sedentary for too long which helps you hit your daily movement targets. What a genius idea!
If there is any sport you have ever wanted to do, but have been too shy to try it, now is the time to peruse it! You will gain the physical skills required to do it, gain friendships and relationships from the people you meet there, and reap the mental benefits it brings too! The Google definition for Sport is: "an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment." Using the words in the sentence above in a jumbled order I could give a shorter explanation that fits better for me: "Physical activity involving skill for entertainment!"
What is more entertaining than doing something you love, with people you like, who also love doing it? There is something extremely fascinating about finding a community you feel you belong to. This is in any walk of life, not just in sport. In the various types of training facilities you could attend you could consider yourself the modern day tribe, finding a bunch of people who desire similar things to you and are willing to work together to get the results.
One of the new hobbies I plan to start is pole dancing. Every person I have told about it immediately thought of me as a pole dancing stripper (For any of you reading who don’t know I'm a man, Instagram & YouTube; Jack Pierce PT, shameless plug). The real reason I am looking forward to starting pole dancing is for the amount of mental and physical strength it takes to hold the extremely impressive positions and poses, while gravity is doing its best to fight against the strength of your muscles. I will get to learn a new skill and broaden my tribe along the way.
The thing about life, including exercise, is that we all have great potential within us just waiting to be shown to the world! We all start off as a beginner, but before you know it, with consistent practice you will be able to do mind blowing things that you would never have thought possible. Exercise is our birth right; it is one of the main contributing factors that helped us evolve into what we are today. The impact movement has had on our society, on what it can give us, is greatly overlooked in this digital age. Yet it makes me happy that tens of thousands of people still visit professional football games each week to show their support for their tribe.