Cyber buddy is better than 'no buddy'

April 23, 2014, Michigan State University
Along with a human partner option, two software-generated partners were used during Feltz's study. This image represents one of the cyber buddy options. Credit: Michigan State University

A Michigan State University researcher is looking to give exercise enthusiasts the extra nudge they need during a workout, and her latest research shows that a cyber buddy can help.

The study, which appears in the Games for Health Journal, is the first to indicate that although a human partner is still a better 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.

The implications from the research also could open the door for software and video game companies to create cyber buddy programs based on sport 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.

Using "CyBud-X," an exercise game specifically developed for Feltz's research, 120 college-aged participants were given five different isometric plank exercises to do with one of three same-sex partner choices.

Along with a human partner option, two software-generated buddies were used during Feltz's study. This image represents a nearly human partner. Credit: Michigan State University

Along with a human partner option, two software-generated buddies were used – one representing what looked to be a nearly human partner and another that looked animated. The participant and partner image were then projected onto a screen via a web camera while exercising.

The results showed that a significant motivational gain was observed in all partner conditions.

"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.

Her findings give credence that programs such as "CyBud-X" can make a difference in the way people perform.

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

Explore further: Virtual workout partners spur better results

Related Stories

Virtual workout partners spur better results

May 18, 2011
Can't find anyone to exercise with? Don't despair: New research from Michigan State University reveals working out with a virtual partner improves motivation during exercise.

Optimal workout partner encourages less to motivate more, says researcher

May 8, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—The best workout partner may be one who understands that silence is golden, according to one Kansas State University researcher in the College of Human Ecology.

Cyber exercise partners help you go the distance: Motivation gains can double

May 24, 2012
A new study testing the benefits of a virtual exercise partner shows the presence of a moderately more capable cycling partner can significantly boost the motivation – by as much as 100 percent – to stick to an ...

Exercise performance enhanced with virtual partner

December 14, 2012
(HealthDay)—Exercise duration is improved by exercising with a virtual partner, especially with a moderately superior partner, according to a study published in the October issue of the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

Burning more calories is easier when working out with someone you perceive as better

November 26, 2012
The key to motivation in physical activity may be feeling inadequate. One Kansas State University researcher found that those who exercised with a teammate whom they perceived to be better increased their workout time and ...

Cyber partners help you go the distance

May 16, 2012
A new study, testing the benefits of a virtual exercise partner, shows that the presence of a moderately more capable cycling partner boosts motivation to stick to an exercise program. The work by Brandon Irwin and colleagues, ...

Recommended for you

Length of eye blinks might act as conversational cue

December 12, 2018
Blinking may feel like an unconscious activity, but new research by Paul Hömke and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, suggests that humans unknowingly perceive eye blinks as nonverbal cues when ...

How bullying affects the brain

December 12, 2018
New research from King's College London identifies a possible mechanism that shows how bullying may influence the structure of the adolescent brain, suggesting the effects of constantly being bullied are more than just psychological.

Increased motor activity linked to improved mood

December 12, 2018
Increasing one's level of physical activity may be an effective way to boost one's mood, according to a new study from a team including scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in collaboration with the ...

High-dose antipsychotics place children at increased risk of unexpected death

December 12, 2018
Children and young adults without psychosis who are prescribed high-dose antipsychotic medications are at increased risk of unexpected death, despite the availability of other medications to treat their conditions, according ...

What social stress in monkeys can tell us about human health

December 11, 2018
Research in recent years has linked a person's physical or social environment to their well-being. Stress wears down the body and compromises the immune system, leaving a person more vulnerable to illnesses and other conditions. ...

You make decisions quicker and based on less information than you think

December 11, 2018
We live in an age of information. In theory, we can learn everything about anyone or anything at the touch of a button. All this information should allow us to make super-informed, data-driven decisions all the time.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.