Written by Alexa Cortese, web intern
You know that working out with a partner can give you an extra boost (find one near you here!), but have you heard that your workout buddy doesn’t have to be a real human being? A new study found that virtual exercise buddies can be just the tool you need to motivate yourself—and that they may even be better than a real friend!
The study, which was conducted by the Department of Kinesiology at Michigan State University, found that those who competed against a virtual buddy in an active video game improved their performance. One exercise that was specifically studied amongst the 200 participants was the plank, one of our fitness standbys! When study participants were asked to do the pose alongside a same-sex virtual partner, they held it for a whopping 24 percent longer than when they tried it solo.
The video game partner was always programmed to perform better than the participants, which might explain why it pushed them to work harder. Does this mean you can recruit a much more fit friend to get you through your next workout to get the same benefit? Not quite. Researchers believe that the social anxiety that comes with exercising with a real person can hold you back. If your real-life buddy performs better than you do, you may feel discouraged instead of motivated, and perhaps even embarrassed. On the other hand, if you perform better than your buddy, you may become bored or try to tone down your performance so she won’t feel bad.
Yeah, you don’t have to worry about your virtual buddy’s feelings, but you can’t have a laugh with her about your horrible date last night, either, can you? While we’re not about to ditch our friends for our next workout, we might just give video game competitions a shot the next time we need to amp up our game.
Now tell us: Do you have a better workout with a real or virtual friend?
Looking for a fun way to burn extra calories? Check out the latest video game craze: Xbox 360 Kinect puts a spin on gaming by eliminating the need to hold a controller to play—you simply stand in front of the device as it scans you, and then YOU become the controller. Since there are no wires or wands to manage, you can just focus on the game—as you move to play, your hand, arm and leg movements are copied on screen.
Microsoft recently invited me to test out Kinect’s new get-fit titles and sweat alongside trainer and fitness DVD star Jennifer Galardi. On offer: The Biggest Loser: Ultimate Workout (Bob and Jillian guide you through the routines!), Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, EA Sports Active 2, and my fave: Kinect Sports.
Jennifer and I chose to battle it out in a boxing match, jabbing our way to a KO—after 3 rounds, I barely inched past and won—the surprise? My biceps and triceps actually felt a burn, and I had started working up a sweat! Though there are other similar titles out there on competitor’s game systems, playing without holding a controller takes the experience to the next level by getting your entire body in on the calorie-burning action. In addition to boxing, Kinect Sports lets you choose from soccer (“kick” the ball and see it fly!), beach volleyball, bowling, table tennis and track and field. If you’re looking for a more tailored workout with personalized training, check out the other fitness titles above—each one delivers results while making it fun.
Check out Xbox.com for more info—if you already have an Xbox 360, you can easily upgrade to Kinect by purchasing the sensor only and hooking it up to your game console.
So, tell us: what’s your favorite active video game? Do you feel the burn when you play?