The trick to making yourself exercise more

The trick to making yourself exercise more
Picture: Spencer Platt/Getty

Doctors say that you should get 150 minutes of aerobic exercise - like cycling or jogging - every week for optimum health.

But given that so many of us are creatures with sedentary lifestyles (office, couch, bed: repeat), gathering enough motivation to work out can be a mammoth task.

According to new research from the Annenberg School for Communication, all you have to do is introduce a bit of competition to the equation.

The study brought together 800 graduate and professional students and got them to sign up for an 11-week exercise program called PennShape.

The participants (unbeknownst to them) were split into four groups in order to assess how different types of social interactions affected their exercise levels.

The groups were: individual competition, team support, team competition, and a control group.

People in the individual group saw leadership boards showing anonymous program members and their progress. These participants earned prizes based on their own success.

In the team support group, they were able to chat online and encourage their team members. Rewards went to the teams with highest attendance.

The group with team competition were able to see leader boards of other teams, as well as where their own team stood in the competition.

Finally, the control group was given access to websites and could go to any class, but they were not given any social connections. Any prizes they received were through their own individual success.


Attendance shot up to 90 per cent in the competitive groups, compared to the controlled group.

Not only that, but both team (with an average class attendance of 38.5 classes a week) and individual competition (35.7 classes a week) were successful in motivating students to work out.

The team support group did not do as well, with participants taking an average of 16.8 classes a week.

Jingwen Zhang, one of the researchers and an assistant professor at the University of California said:

Framing the social interaction as a competition can create positive social norms for exercising… support can make people more dependent on receiving messages, which can change the focus of the program.

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