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MSU study: 'Virtual' training partners help people exercise more

(MSU Dept. of Kinesiology)
Brandon Irwin (sitting) of the Department of Kinesiology conducts exercises with test subject Nik Skogsberg in the Health Games Lab. The technology was used to study motivational gains for people exercising with virtual workout partners. Photo by Derrick

A new Michigan State University study finds ‘virtual’ athletic training partners might be more effective than trying to work out alone.   Researchers found a virtual training partner, someone appearing on a video monitor,  actually provides greater motivation for people to exercise longer , harder and more frequently. 

Deborah Feltz is the chairperson of MSU’s  Department of Kinesiology. She says the study shows it might be more practical for some people to use a ‘virtual’ training partner. 

"You don’t have to worry about finding a perfect match…getting to an exercise location at the same time…trying to match up schedules.”

 Feltz says they’re interested in seeing if animated characters also have the same motivating effect in specially designed video games.

“If we find that these affects still work, then they can be put into these games…and I think really enhance their purpose.”

The MSU study will appear in the Journal of Sports and Exercise Psychology.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.