Exercising with a partner is a good motivator. But maybe only if your gym buddy keeps quiet. That’s according to research to be published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. [Brandon Irwin et al., You can do it: The efficacy of encouragement in motivating the weak link to exercise longer during an online exercise video game (in press)]
For the study, participants had to hold a plank for as long as possible. Some simply did the exercise. Others did it with a partner who was on video. They were told the partner was stronger than they were—past research has shown that a more accomplished workout buddy motivates people to exercise longer.
The video partner was silent with some participants. But the partner verbally encouraged others. And when their gym buddy told the exercisers to feel the burn, they instead burned out.
The researchers believe that the encouragement decreased exercise ability because the participant might have interpreted the support as patronizing. Or they thought that the gym buddy was really only encouraging him- or herself.
The research could inform the design of effective video game workouts and social media tools to help people exercise. Because while increased motivation can help physical activity, a lot of yapping may just be sapping.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]