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Behind Every Olympian is Someone Who Believes In Them

August 9, 2016 / Uncategorized

summer olympics and social connections, Virgin PulseWhen You Surround Yourself with the Right Support Network, Everyone’s a Winner

Tune into the 2016 Summer Olympics and within minutes you’re offered a glimpse into the significant role social connections play in the lives and success of the athletes.

After a victory, the camera pans into the stands to see the reactions of an athlete’s family members. Between action, we’re presented feature stories about stars and the sacrifices made by their loved ones to aid in their athletic success. During commercial breaks, we’re reminded that behind many of these strong athletes is a strong woman who enabled such elite performances.

It’s a constant reminder of the impact social networks have on performance and our lives.

In just the first few days of the Rio games, we’ve witnessed wonderful examples of the power of social connections. U.S. gymnast Simone Biles, raised by her grandparents, growing to become a world champion and gold medal threat. Scenes of an ecstatic husband/coach of Hungarian star swimmer Katinka Hosszu celebrate as she smashes a world record in the pool. And of course, there’s the great Michael Phelps.

Over the years, his mother has earned enough air time in the Olympic games that she’s practically a celebrity herself. Now, we’re introduced to his fiancee and young son, both of whom he credits for his renewed focus and direction. Then there’s his connection to his USA swimming teammates, never more on display then when he takes part in the 4×100-meter relay and his memorable reaction to the team’s victory in 2008 is iconic. This year in Rio, he swam his fastest split ever to clinch the  gold medal underscoring the significant role his support network of family, friends and teammates  play in driving behavior and performance.

We see similar results achieved when members of Virgin Pulse lean on their social networks for support and motivation. Colleagues, family and friends are proven to greatly influence the success of an employee embarking on employer-provided wellbeing programs. Just merely including significant others can double participation rates, increase physical activity and ensure sustainable, long-term behavioral changes.

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Research by Virgin Pulse Science Advisory Board Member Dr. Nicholas Christakis shows that the health of individuals is interdependent on others. We live in interconnected communities, so as a result, our health is connected. Our wellbeing is impacted by those we surround ourselves, which in turn, influences outcomes in our health, relationships and occupations.

Whether the goal is to create an engaging Olympic Games or an engaged and productive workforce, it’s clear social connections are the secret to success.

Here’s to more great performance and great stories from the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Discover how relationships influence health and performance at work. Download our white paper written by Dr. Nicholas Christakis.


Bryan Mahoney is the Director of Content Marketing at Virgin Pulse. He brings more than a decade’s worth of experience as a content producer and blends his interests in all things wellbeing to help organizations become the best places to work. A former marathon champ, he now balances running with family by constantly chasing after his two-year-old daughter, Gia.

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