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Exercise Is Easier When You Feel Inadequate
Pushing yourself to burn more calories comes easier when you're working out with someone you believe is more fit, new research finds.
By Annie Hauser
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TUESDAY, Nov. 27, 2012 — People who exercise with a workout buddy they consider more fit will increase their time and intensity by as much as 200 percent, Kansas State University researchers report.
While tracking the performance of college-age females on stationary bikes, researchers tested whether individuals work out harder alone, with a virtual partner, or with a flesh-and-blood teammate. When participants biked with what they were told was a partner in a lab whom they could see on a screen (in reality, it was a video), they biked 40 percent longer than they did alone. When participants were told the partner in the other lab was their teammate, where the team was graded on the time of the person who quits biking first, they exercised 160 percent longer than those in the virtual partner group and 200 percent longer than those exercising as individuals.
Participants might have not wanted to let their partners down, said principle investigator Brandon Irwin, PhD. However, working with the super athlete down the street isn't everyone's best bet for fitness. Research has shown that if an exercise partner or teammate is exponentially better, the burst of motivation disappears, Irwin said. A partner who works about 40 percent better is optimal."
"In certain fitness goals, like preparing to run a marathon, consider exercising not only with someone else, but with someone who is that much better," Irwin said. "For an extra boost, consider some type of team exercise that involves competition, like playing basketball at a regular time throughout the week."
In the future, Irwin wants to give this information a real-world application by developing software that allows individuals from all over the country to be matched based on their fitness goals and levels. "I want to partner people up with actual individuals, not just prerecorded workout partners," he said.
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