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A study has suggested that if you want to lose weight you need to hang out with people who are healthy and skinny and not with the ones who are obese.

The research conducted on 3,610 women aged between 18 and 46 showed that those who move in healthier circles are more likely to drop bad habits, eat well and even exercise more.

"These findings suggest that healthy behaviour may be contagious," the Daily Express quoted Professor Kylie Ball, from Deakin University in Australia, who led the research team, as saying.

The researchers tested the extent to which a fashion for healthy behaviour among a person's friends and family could influence their own lifestyle.

The women who took part in the study were asked to rate how much they agreed with statements such as "I often see other people walking in my neighbourhood" and "Lots of women I know eat fast food often".

"The importance of social environmental influences on health-promoting behaviours such as physical activity and healthy eating has been increasingly recognised," Ball said.

"Ours is one of the first studies to demonstrate the association of both social support and social norms with physical activity and eating behaviours.

"The potential to modify social norms as an intervention lever for promoting increased engagement in physical activity and healthy eating is worthy of further investigation," she added.

The findings have been published in scientific publisher BioMed Central's open access International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. (ANI)