A recently published study investigated if support or competition of online social networks increased physical activity participation. The researchers recruited 800 participants to an exercise program that lasted 11 weeks. Study participants were free to attend weekly exercise classes. In addition, through a website especially designed for this study, the participants were provided fitness mentoring as well as nutritional advice. Those participants who logged in the most exercise sessions at the end of the training period were awarded prizes.
However, unbeknown to the participants was the fact that the researchers split them into four different groups. The groups consisted of either competitive or supportive relationships with either individual or team incentives for attending exercise classes. This allowed the researchers to study the effect of social networking on exercise participation.
What they found was interesting. Overwhelmingly, competition was the winner in this study with 90% higher exercise participation rates when compared to control. It did not matter if the competition was of individual or team nature. Surprisingly, the exercise participation rates in the support groups were 50% lower than those seen in the competition groups.
Therefore, if you feel like you need to get more active, get yourself some healthy competition.
Nina Zisko, PhD candidate at CERG