Can Hanging Out with Friends Actually Help You Lose Weight?

Did you know that socializing with friends and family has more benefits than just boosting your mood and mental health? It turns out that having an active social life might actually help you burn fat. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? But research from Ohio State University suggests that when socializing, your body may convert white fat—calorie-storing fat—into brown fat, which is known for burning energy.

So, before you give up on your weight loss journey or think twice about enjoying a night out with friends, let’s dive into the science behind this fascinating finding and discover how to make the most of your social life for better health all around.

Why Brown Fat Is Better

When you think of body fat, you probably think about the dreaded white fat. White fat is the calorie-storing fat that shows up in places we don’t want it to and isn’t helpful when it comes to losing weight. Brown fat, on the other hand, actually burns energy and is known for generating heat, which is beneficial for weight loss. In fact, brown fat may be more closely linked to maintaining a healthy body weight and controlling blood sugar levels.

In years past, scientists believed that only babies had brown fat, which helped to keep them warm due to their lack of shivering capabilities. We now know, however, that adults also have deposits of brown fat. The interesting thing about brown fat is that its levels can be increased through prolonged exposure to cold temperatures or by activating the sympathetic nervous system.

Socializing and the Fat-Burning Connection

In the Ohio State University study that looked into this phenomenon, researchers used a mouse model to examine the relationship between socialization and body fat. They found that rodents placed in a socially enriched environment had significantly less abdominal fat than rodents that lived sedentary and solitary lives.

To top it off, the social rodents experienced an increase in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), known for its positive impact on learning and memory skills. While the study was conducted on rodents, the findings are intriguing and present a potential connection between socialization and the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which promotes the transition from calorie-storing white fat to energy-burning brown fat.

How to Make Socializing Work for Your Health

While more research needs to be done to confirm these findings in humans, you can still make the most of your social life for the sake of your health.

  1. Stay active during social events. Instead of sitting down for a long dinner, consider involving physical activity in your plans. Go for a walk, participate in a group exercise class, or play a sport together—this way, you’ll be combining the benefits of both socializing and physical activity.

  2. Bond in cold environments. Since brown fat can be activated through exposure to cold temperatures, choose social activities that involve colder environments like ice skating, skiing, or simply enjoying the outdoors during wintertime.

  3. Manage stress. Chronic stress can wreak havoc on your sympathetic nervous system, which plays a role in converting white fat to brown. Make sure you’re managing your stress levels by incorporating calming activities like meditation or yoga into your social life.

  4. Get out of your comfort zone. New experiences can activate the sympathetic nervous system as well. So, try to incorporate social events that are new and challenging to stimulate that fat-burning potential.

  5. Don’t overindulge. While socializing can potentially help burn fat, it’s important not to overdo it on high-calorie foods and drinks during social events. Make an effort to eat mindfully and make healthier choices when dining out or attending parties.

So, can socializing actually help you burn fat? Although more research is needed to make a definitive conclusion, it’s clear that living an active social life contributes to overall well-being and provides numerous benefits, including potentially aiding weight loss efforts. Coupling social activities with a focus on physical activity and stress management can lead to an even greater impact on your overall health. Happy socializing!