Found: The best way to motivate yourself to exercise.

competition-exercise-motivation-feature

Lacking motivation to get moving?

Science has figured out the best way to motivate yourself to exercise and it doesn’t involve moving into your local gym or living on a diet of strictly green foods. Hallelujah.

In fact, chances are you’ve already stumbled upon it at least once before.

According to a new study published in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports, the secret to being healthy is, well, a little healthy competition.

Watch: Sam Wood on why you don’t need hours to work out. Post continues after video.

And if you’ve ever quickened your pace on the bike or treadmill just a little to keep up with Susan/Doug/random stranger working out next to you, you’ll know exactly how effective it can be.

For the study, researchers put almost 800 graduate and professional students at the University of Pennyslvania through an 11 week exercise program that included running, yoga, spinning, Pilates and weightlifting classes.

Advertisement

Participants were assigned to either work in a team or alone, with class dynamics designed to be either competitive or socially supportive. (Post continues after gallery.)

In the competitive team group, individuals were given access to the exercise progress of five random health ‘buddies’, while the supportive group were also able to interact, chat and attend classes with their buddies.

And while whether a person was working alone or in a team had no impact on how frequently they worked out, a competitive atmosphere certainly did.

The study found that those in the competitive groups went to 90 per cent more classes than those who weren’t.

Wow.

Even more surprising was that those who got social support actually exercised the least – even less than those who worked out alone.

Image: iStock

"That’s pretty interesting, because it means that putting people into the social support condition was worse than giving them nothing at all,"  the study’s senior author Damon Centola, associate professor of communication and engineering at the University of Pennsylvania told Time.

"I didn’t expect that."

In the competitive group, people were encouraged to work harder because they wanted to keep up with or beat the individuals working the hardest.

"As people were influenced by their neighbours to exercise more, it created a social ratchet, where everyone increased everyone else’s activity levels," Centola said.

It was the exact opposite for the social support group, with dynamics led by the least active.

Image: iStock

But this doesn't mean you have to swap your best friend for an enemy to make you work out harder.

You can still exercise with a social network - you just have to use them in the right way.

Centola recommends finding a group with similar backgrounds and interests then creating an online space where people can track each other's exercise logs to give everyone a "mutual incentive to keep going."

After all, a little friendly competition never hurt anyone.

P.S - Susan - you're on.

Image: iStock.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION