Friends Are Better Than Painkillers

A large social network can change how you feel pain, says a new study

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We know the benefits of having a squad: Not only do friends provide some IRL motivation to get you going, but they also help you enjoy your workout more and reduce stress levels. And now, new research out of the University of Oxford, published in the journal Nature, is doubling down on those perks, citing that people with a large social network of friends have a higher pain tolerance than those who do not. So that next group WOD you do with your exercise buds could hurt way less if you've got a larger group of pals. Crazy, right?

Lead study author Katerina Johnson, a doctoral student in the University's Department of Experimental Psychology, was very interested in the neurobiology of our endorphins-you know, those feel-good chemicals our body produces after an amazing workout or an otherwise awesome achievement. (Did you know the endorphins behind your runner's high are as strong as a drug high?) Not only do they make you happy, but endorphins are also known to be natural pain killers. But does that mean having a higher pain tolerance is related to how many buddies you have?

To test the correlation, Johnson and team had study subjects fill out a questionnaire regarding "the two innermost social network layers" (approximately corresponding to individuals contacted at least once a week and once a month, respectively), as well as providing information on lifestyle and personality. Then the participants were all asked to do a wall squat and hold it as long as possible. (For what it's worth, the #SHAPESquad is always better when we wall squat together.) Even when allowing for differences in individual fitness, the study found that people who could wall squat longer (and endure the pain) tended to have larger social networks, or have more friends.

"Studies suggest that the quantity and quality of our social relationships affect our physical and mental health and may even be a factor determining how long we live," Johnson said in a press release.

We're taking this as our cue to buddy up and start working out with our friends, stat-looks like we'll be able to burst out a few extra burpees too. (Need more convincing? Find out Why Having a Fitness Buddy Is the Best Thing Ever.)

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