A virtual friend can help you exercise

A person's motivation to exercise can be significantly boosted thanks to the help of a virtual partner. A new study from Michigan State University's Department of Kinesiology revealed the presence of even a slightly more capable fellow cycler has the capacity to improve willingness to stick to a get-fit programme by as much as 100 per cent.

Published in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine, the investigation found women taking part in cycling exercises with a virtual mate persisted with the activity for almost twice as long as those who did it alone.

Brandon Irwin of the learning institute described these gains as "substantial", especially for individuals hoping to increase their physical activity levels.

Mr Irwin stated: "These results are encouraging and suggest the gains we observed over six hour-long sessions could be sustained on a longer-term program of exercise."

The report showed women who cycled as part of a team kept up the exercise for 22 minutes, participants who trained independently with a partner did so for 20 minutes and those who went it alone clocked up just 11 minutes.

Dr Jim Golby, a Chartered Psychologist from the University of Teesside, comments: "There is a long history in the domain of sport & exercise psychology which notes that the presence of others has a significant effect on behaviour (positive and negative). What is new about this research is that the same effect can be observed when it is a virtual presence. This has important implications for the study of exercise adherence and further research is needed to study the generalizability of this effect"