Lose Your Ego, Gain a Better Workout
You can improve the intensity and calorie burn from your next Arc Trainer workout if you compete with someone who is fitter than you. One Kansas State University researcher found that those who exercised with a teammate whom they perceived to be better increased their workout time and intensity by as much as 200 percent.
Brandon Irwin, assistant professor of kinesiology, investigated whether individuals engage in more intense physical activity when alone, with a virtual partner or competing against a teammate. "People like to exercise with others and make it a social activity," Irwin said. "We found that when you're performing with someone who you perceive as a little better than you, you tend to give more effort than you normally would alone."
The Benefits of Being the Weakest Link
For the first part of the study, college-age females exercise on a stationary bike six sessions in a four-week period. They told participants to ride the bike as long as they could. On average, each participant rode for 10 minutes.
Next, the same group of participants returned to the lab for more exercise sessions, but was told they were working out with a partner in another lab whom they could see on a screen. In reality, this was only a looped video. Participants also were told that their virtual partner was part of the first study and had ridden the bike 40% longer than them.
After creating the impression that their partner was more fit than they were, Professor Irwin found that participants rode an average of nine minutes, or 90% longer than simply exercising alone.
Irwin said research has shown that if an exercise partner or teammate is roughly at the same level or is exponentially better, the motivation disappears. He and his team found that a partner who worked at a level approximately 40 percent better was optimal. The team's research findings were published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, a bimonthly peer-reviewed medical journal.
Bottom line: if you are willing to swallow your pride and be the underachiever in your group of exercisers, you may achieve your own personal best.
Guest Blogger and Fitness Enthusiast