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Why a Virtual Workout Buddy Gives You More Motivation

Written by Alexa Cortese, web intern

workout buddies

A workout buddy, real or virtual, can help you perform at your highest level! (Photo by Alexa Miller)

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?