It’s long been known that pairing up or joining a group can help you achieve your fitness goals. Unfortunately, not everyone has the time, money, or ability to workout with others. Now there’s good news for those who found it difficult to reach their goals on their own, but lacked the resources to work with a partner or group. Recent research shows that working with a “virtual” exercise partner can boost motivation, just as well as working with someone physically with you!

The study, conducted at Michigan State University by Brandon Irwin and his colleagues, looked at those working with online, virtual exercise partners in an attempt to determine if it would provide the same benefits as having partners “in real life.” The results were impressive – participants with competent virtual partners received the motivation boost they needed to reach their goals. The study also showed that team performance was improved with virtual support.

What this Study Means for You

Lack of motivation can play a major role in a person’s frequency and intensity of exercise. Group exercise, such as fitness classes, have long been used to boost intensity and get people to commit to a program. Most people tend to work harder and show up when they know others are expecting a certain level of performance. Researchers used this proven tendency to test whether a virtual partner could influence a person’s motivation to exercise in the same way in-person partners do.

This could be just the thing for people who have had a difficult time sticking to an exercise program or giving the program enough effort to see results. If you have been resistant to sharing your fitness goals with others because:

-You lack the funds to enroll in a class
-You’re too busy or have an unusual schedule that makes it impossible to enroll in a class
-You feel embarrassed or uncomfortable with how you’d perform
-You suffer from an illness or injury that makes it difficult to find the right program
-You’re unable to find anyone who shares your goals or who you feel will really motivate you to exercise
-You have any other reason that kept you from exercise other than when you were alone

No matter what your reason, working out can be a challenge, but getting fit with a virtual partner might just solve that problem for many!
No matter what your reason, working out can be a challenge, but getting fit with virtual partners might just solve that problem for many!

The results of this study show you can still benefit from the support of another person!

Study participants included 58 young women who exercised on a stationary bike for one hour on six separate days. The women were split into three groups, the first of which exercised independently but with a virtual partner. The second group worked with a virtual partner, but did so as a team, and the overall performance of the team was determined by the person who stopped exercising first. The final group exercised completely alone.

Study participants with virtual partners were introduced to their partners via a pre-recorded video chat and were told their partner’s performance was somewhat better than their own. As they cycled, participants tracked their partner’s progress along with their own on a recording that appeared to be a live feed.

Each participant was instructed to ride as long as she felt comfortable and was then asked to rate their intention to work out again based on how they felt.

Results Showed Working Out with Virtual Partners Made a Big Difference

The first two groups showed improved performance overall. The second group, those exercising as a team, showed the most improvement, cycling on average two minutes longer than those in the first group. The team group cycled two times as long as the third group that included participants working alone.

There was also clear evidence in motivation, as the group who worked completely alone reported less intention of returning to exercise again, versus the two groups working with virtual partners.

The study concluded working out with virtual partners, especially as part of a team, significantly enhanced motivation and performance. According to the study, anyone can enjoy the benefits of sharing their workout experience with others, even if this method had previously not been an option.

If you’re looking for a way to boost your fitness performance or you haven’t been able to find the motivation to “get going” in terms of exercise, a virtual partner might be just what you need to get motivated and finally get healthy!

-Michael De Medeiros

Do you have know a study that shows how VR can positively impact on your fitness? Post your feedback in the comments sections and one of our editors will get back to you ASAP!


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