Virtual Workout Partners Are Better Motivators: Study

Who needs humans when you've got technology to push you during your workouts?

Virtual workout partners may not only make you work out harder, but they can even be better than working out with a live person, according to a new study from Michigan State University.

Research subjects were asked to perform a series of five plank exercises, first by themselves and then with a virtual partner. The partner's performance was manipulated to be always superior to the participant's.

Those who exercised with a more-capable virtual partner performed the exercise 24 percent longer than those without.

Researchers said the findings should encourage those who have had trouble finding an ideal workout partner at a particular location.

"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," said the lead researcher. "With a virtual partner, this can be addressed."

The best motivation boost happens when the virtual partner is slightly fitter than the participant (In the study, the researchers manipulated the partner to be 1.4 times better than each individual).

Men's Health recommends digital motivators like the Garmin Forerunner 610, a watch for runners, and Kinect Sports from Xbox.

Here at Go Healthy, Melissa Davison's favorites include Daily Mile, iMapMyRun, Fitness Pro, and Smart Coach, among others.

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What virtual partners motivate you during your workout?

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