Working out with a virtual partner improves motivation during exercise, a new research from Michigan State University has revealed.
The study led by Deborah Feltz, chairperson of MSU's Department of Kinesiology, is the first to investigate the Kohler effect on motivation in health video games; that phenomenon explains why inferior team members perform better in a group than they would by themselves.
"Our results suggest working out with virtually present, superior partners can improve motivation on exercise game tasks," Feltz said.
"These findings provide a starting point to test additional features that have the potential to improve motivational gains in health video games."
By incorporating design features based on the Kohler effect, health video games could motivate vigorous exercise, she added.
"One of the key hurdles people cite in not working out is a lack of motivation," Feltz said. "Research has shown working out with a partner increases motivation, and with a virtual partner, you are removing the social anxiety that some people feel working out in public."
Also, researchers have found live exercise partners are not always the most helpful.
"Individuals can become discouraged if they believe they can never keep up with their partner, or on the other hand, become bored if their partner is always slower," Feltz said. "With a virtual partner, this can be addressed."
The research is forthcoming in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology.