People who find success in a wellness programme are more influential in getting friends to sign up than a charismatic, but less successful person, the findings showed.

"Your ties and social contacts may have a bigger effect because you see them every day and you have that close connection," said Lora Cavuoto from the University at Buffalo.

"If they can be successful, then that's your best way of getting information out that a programme is good," Cavuoto added. The findings could help diet and exercise programmers reach more people by advising marketers on which people to target as endorsers.

The study simulated the behaviour of fictional people created using combinations of physical attributes and personality traits, such as the ability to lose weight and a high- or low-body mass index. The model distributed traits based on national population averages.

Based on the simulations, people in social networks linked to someone who successfully lost weight produced the largest total weight-loss among peers.

Networks surrounding people with a high number of charismatic or popular friends produced lower weight-loss totals.

The study was published in the Journal of Healthcare Engineering.


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