Of course, researchers have known for a while that working out with a partner can be a powerful motivator — especially when that person is more athletically skilled than you are. No friends available? A new study suggests that while an actual human is preferable, a cyber buddy can also be effective at inspiring you to work harder.
Researchers at Michigan State University tested the effects of a virtual workout partner on 120 subjects. Each exerciser was instructed to perform five plank exercises with one of the following: an actual human, a realistic CGI creation, a Voldemort-esque animated character (like the one below), or no companion at all. Each workout buddy was displayed on a screen, and exercisers were able to interact with their partners via webcam.
All three options contributed to enhanced performance. Those with human buddies could hold their planks for an average of 80 seconds longer than their lone-wolf counterparts, while the realistic CGI person and the weird animation elicited 30- and 20-second improvements, respectively.
While virtual workout buddies have been a thing since before the advent of Nintendo Wii (remember Wii Tennis, anyone?), the next generation of workout software could be designed to motivate users even further. The study's author, Deborah Feltz, notes that "unlike many of the current game designs out there, these results could allow developers to create exercise platforms that incorporate team or partner dynamics that are based on science." But, of course, virtual buddies don't do brunch. (Science Daily)