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'Cyber Buddy' Also Can Be Effective During a Workout, Study Finds

Update Date: Apr 24, 2014 09:11 AM EDT

'Cyber buddy' is better than having no buddy while exercising, a new research has found. 

According to the study, although a human parter is preferred motivator during exercise, a software-generated partner also can be effective. 

"We wanted to demonstrate that something that isn't real can still motivate people to give greater effort while exercising than if they had to do it by themselves," said Deborah Feltz, a University Distinguished Professor in MSU's kinesiology department who led the study with co-investigator Brian Winn, associate professor in MSU's College of Communication Arts and Sciences, in the press release. 

Researchers believe the implications from the research could also open the door for software and video game companies to create cyber buddy softwares based on sports psychology. 

"Unlike many of the current game designs out there, these results could allow developers to create exercise platforms that incorporate team or partner dynamics that are based on science," said Feltz.

Researchers had developed an exercise game called "CyBud-X" that was used by around 120 college-aged participants who were given five different isometric plank exercises to do with one of three same-sex partner choices. 

"Even though participants paired with a human partner held their planks, on average, one minute and 20 seconds longer than those with no partner, those paired with one of the software-generated buddies still held out, on average, 33 seconds longer," said Feltz.

Much of Feltz's research in this area has focused on the Köhler Motivation Effect, a phenomenon that explains why people, who may not be adept exercisers themselves, perform better with a moderately better partner or team as opposed to working out alone, read the release.

"We know that people tend to show more effort during exercise when there are other partners involved because their performance hinges on how the entire team does," she added. "The fact that a nonhuman partner can have a similar effect is encouraging."

The study appears in the Games for Health Journal.

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