Get mo­ti­vated to hit the gym

The Sun (Malaysia) - - LIFESTYLE -

RE­SEARCHERS from the Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia think they may have fig­ured out how to en­cour­age peo­ple to stick to a fit­ness regime, with new re­search sug­gest­ing that a lit­tle com­pe­ti­tion is the best mo­ti­va­tor when it comes to work­ing out.

For their study, pub­lished in the jour­nal Pre­ven­tive Medicine Re­ports, the team re­cruited nearly 800 grad­u­ates and pro­fes­sional stu­dents for an 11week ex­er­cise pro­gramme called Pen­nShape.

The pro­gramme, which was cre­ated by the study’s au­thors Damon Cen­tola and Jing­wen Zhang, pro­vided par­tic­i­pants with weekly ex­er­cise classes, fit­ness men­tor­ing and nu­tri­tion ad­vice.

Every­thing was man­aged through a web­site, and af­ter the pro­gramme had fin­ished, those who had at­tended the most ex­er­cise classes won prizes.

How­ever, un­known to the par­tic­i­pants, the re­searchers had split them into four groups to test how dif­fer­ent kinds of so­cial net­works af­fected their ex­er­cise lev­els.

These four groups were in­di­vid­ual com­pe­ti­tion, team sup­port, team com­pe­ti­tion, and a con­trol group.

In the in­di­vid­ual group, par­tic­i­pants could see ex­er­cise leader­boards – al­though all mem­bers listed were anony­mous – and earned prizes based on their own at­ten­dance rate.

For the team sup­port group, par­tic­i­pants could chat on­line and en­cour­age each other to ex­er­cise, with re­wards go­ing to the most suc­cess­ful teams with the high­est at­ten­dance rate.

In the team com­pe­ti­tion group par­tic­i­pants could see a leader­board of other teams and their own team’s po­si­tion.

Par­tic­i­pants in the con­trol group could use the web­site and go to any class, but were not given any so­cial con­nec­tions on the web­site – prizes in this group were based on in­di­vid­ual class at­ten­dance.

The re­sults showed that com­pe­ti­tion was by far the strong­est mo­ti­va­tor, with at­ten­dance rates 90% higher in the com­pet­i­tive groups than in the con­trol group.

Cen­tola ex­plained that, “Sup­port­ive groups can back­fire be­cause they draw at­ten­tion to mem­bers who are less ac­tive, which can cre­ate a down­ward spi­ral of par­tic­i­pa­tion,” adding that, “If peo­ple stop ex­er­cis­ing, it gives per­mis­sion for oth­ers to stop, too, and the whole thing can un­ravel fairly quickly.”

“In a com­pet­i­tive set­ting, each per­son’s ac­tiv­ity raises the bar for ev­ery­one else.” – AFPRe­laxnews

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