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Want to Stick with Your Fitness Routine? Get Competitive, Study Says

If you’re looking to maximize your fitness routine, you’ll get the most motivation from competing with others, a new study found.

In a study published in Preventative Medicine Reports, 790 students from the University of Pennsylvania signed on for an 11-week exercise program.

“Our past research shows that online social networks can be very effective for motivating behavior change,” said Damon Centola, director of the Network Dynamics Group at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. “What we don’t know is why. Is it that people are motivated by the social support they get, or are they more responsive to the competitive influences that come from online networks?”

Researchers divided students into four groups with access to a website created by the researchers which let them log their progress.

The control group participants could use the website and go to any class, but weren’t able to connect socially with others on the website, so they weren’t aware of what anyone else in the program was doing.

The individual competition group was able to view the progress of five other anonymous participants in the program. The team support group was divided into teams of six and had the chance to earn rewards based on the group’s collective activity, giving them motivation to support one another.

The team competitive group was also divided into teams of six and had the ability to communicate with one another, but they were also given access to leaderboards to show how their team was ranked against five other teams.

The two groups motivated by competition went to 90 percent more classes than the other groups involved.

“The results were overwhelmingly clear,” Centola said. “It didn’t matter whether people were exercising in teams or as individuals. Competition was by far the the most powerful motivator to get people to exercise.”