Exercising with a Virtual Partner Increases Motivation


Exercising with a Virtual Partner Increases Motivation

A recent study finds that exercising with a partner – even a virtual one – increases motivation.

Need some motivation to exercise? Try finding a partner—even a virtual one will do.

A recent study conducted at Michigan State University suggests that not only does exercising with a partner increase motivation, but also that this motivation can be all mental—so much so, your partner doesn’t even need to be a real person.

According to the study’s press release, the research could have implications for the motivational gains in health video games.

The study

The study measured the performance of 58 women exercising on a stationary bike for as long as they felt comfortable. The women were split into three groups: the first exercised independently alongside a virtual person; the second group also exercised with a virtual person, but as a team; the third group cycled alone.

Participants in the first two groups were assigned a “virtually present partner” whom the cyclists were told would ride with them, but in a separate room. The women were able to track their partners as they rode by watching what was supposed to be a live feed, but was in fact a recording. Participants also met their partners via video chat (which was actually a pre-recorded message) prior to the exercise and were told that their partner’s level of performance was slightly better than their own.

Participants exercised for as long as they felt comfortable, and then they were asked to rate their intention to exercise again, how well they felt they had done, and how tired they felt. Researchers also measured how hard each cyclist had worked.

Results showed that on average participants who rode as part of a team rode two minutes longer than those who rode independently with a partner (22 minutes compared to 20 minutes), and twice as long as those who rode without a partner (22 minutes compared to 11 minutes).

Also, those who cycled alone had less motivation to exercise again in the future compared to those who had ridden with a virtual partner.

Keeping yourself motivated

Can’t afford the luxuries of a virtual partner? (Maybe you spent all your money on gym memberships and fitness equipment.) Consider finding a real person to exercise with! They might just be what you need to get your exercise routine back on track.

Even keeping tabs on a friend’s exercise routines could be enough to inspire a competitive edge that will boost your performance.

More fitness tips

  • Work with your busy schedule. 
  • Listen to music.
  • Check out these partner exercises.
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