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It’s always been thought that having someone shouting encouragement as you workout helps to motivate you. As it turns out, silence is golden when it comes to the best workout partner.
According to Brandon Irwin, assistant professor of kinesiology at Kansas State University, people tend to work out longer when a workout partner who is perceived to be slightly better, kept verbal encouragement to a minimum.
Irwin was part of a research study that assumed verbal encouragement would increase motivation during physical activity and were looking for a way to quantify it. What they actually found was the complete opposite.
The study had 115 participants perform a plank exercise on three separate trials for as long as they could. In the first trial they performed the exercise alone. In the second trial they told they were working out with a partner in another lab whom they could only see on a video screen. And in the final trial, they were told they would be exercising with a partner on a video screen, but this time, the partner verbally encouraged them.
Surprisingly they found that participants worked out longer when exercising with someone who is slightly better and who is not verbally encouraging them.
“If two individuals are exercising together and one is constantly saying ‘you can do this’ to the other, it may be taken as patronizing,” Irwin said. “Those who received encouragement may have felt condescended.”
“Being the ‘weak link’ is a big motivator in partner or group exercise,” Irwin said. “You don’t want to let your partner down. We’re honing in on that aspect of group exercise.”