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Competing against stronger teammates can boost workout, claims study

Exercising side-by-side with a more athletic teammate may represent a daunting prospect, although research proves that people work out for longer by doing exactly that.

A small study of female college students in America found that competing against a stronger teammate or virtual partner inspires longer workouts. In addition, the group who exercised for longer durations didn't feel any more tired than those exercising on their own

Researchers assessed 58 female students at Michigan State University for their physical fitness before studying their activity on a stationary exercise bike over 60 minute periods. As reported by, results were collected six times over a four weeks to provide baseline data.

The group were sent back to the testing lab for further sessions, only these would carry a twist. Each participant was told they would be working out with a partner in a separate area via video-link, although the partner turned out to be a video played on loop.

All of the women were told their "virtual partner" had ridden for 40 per cent longer during the first sessions than they actually had done. In the sessions that followed, the group managed to double their baseline times.

Other tests saw the women being told they were working with their partner to achieve an average grade, based solely on the time that the first person stopped pedalling. The participants managed to exercise 160 per cent longer on average from the previous session and 200 per cent longer than those riding solo.

Reflecting on the results, Cedric Bryant, chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, claimed the notion that teamwork achieves results can be applied to almost anything in life.

"To me, the real nice message here is that hanging out with people who model positive behaviour - in this case virtually - probably will have a positive effect on what you do as an individual," he told

"Just as with eating habits, if you're in the company of individuals who make prudent choices, you will make better choices yourself."

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