No Workout Buddy? Virtual Partners Motivate Just as Well

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I lived in Memphis for a few years and had a great running partner when I was there.  Some days we'd meet at 4:30 a.m. to squeeze in a speed workout before starting the rest of the day.  Would I have gotten up that early to run in the dark on my own?  Probably not.  Since we both moved away, I haven't found another partner who can easily meet when I'm free and wants to train for the same distances.  I do most of my runs solo these days, which can be tough for motivation.   
Working out with a buddy can make the experience more enjoyable, and also push you to work harder than you would have alone. But what happens when you don't have someone to do it with you?  Are you doomed to fall off of the exercise bandwagon?  Not necessarily.  A new study reveals that working out with a virtual partner can help increase motivation.
The study, published in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, used video games to measure if a virtual partner had an impact on how hard or how frequently participants exercised.  "Participants performed the first series of five exercises alone holding each position for as long as they could. After a rest period, they were told they would do the remaining trials with a same-sex virtual partner whom they could observe during their performance. The partner's performance was manipulated to be always superior to the participant's."  The participants exercised an average of 24% longer with a virtual workout partner who was more fit than them, versus those without. 
Researchers found that some people are intimidated by live workout partners, especially if that person is faster, stronger, etc.  Virtual workout partners also remove some of the anxiety that can be associated with exercising in public.  Video games (such as Wii Fit or Playstation 2) or workout videos can be a great partner that pushes you to work harder or longer than you would have alone.  SparkPeople has a wide selection of cardio and strength videos to choose from, so check them out!
Do you use virtual workouts as part of your exercise routine?  Why or why not?   

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