Excercise and competition

A lack of exercise can increase the risk of chronic illnesses and death. Yet, a large portion of the South African population fails to meet the minimum recommendations for physical activity. Studies show that 69% of South Africans aged 18-24 years fall below acceptable fitness standards.

Clearly, this is an issue. To remedy this, researchers have uncovered key motivators that help people maintain a schedule of physical activity, as well as cost-effective strategies to increase motivation. According to many studies competition is a key motivator for getting us to work out more. Humans are competitive by nature and by tapping into the competitive energy we become motivated.

Entering a fitness competition can help drive us to exercise more. There is also the reward motivator. If there is a chance at winning money or a prize in the competition it helps to motivate even more.

Teaming up with a friend and working out together is also good for starting a new fitness routine, as the psychological costs of changing behaviour are easier to achieve with someone. Another large motivator is social media.
But can a supportive environment help promote exercise? Or is competition more effective?

Support vs. competition in social media
Studies by prominent schools of thought outline key motivators for exercise in the context of social media.

A study was done which involved 790 graduates who signed up for an 11-week programme. This exercise program included weekly workout classes that involved running, spinning, yoga, and weightlifting.
The programme also included nutrition advice, which was managed by the researchers. To see how social media affected each participant, the researchers put them into four teams of six people each: a social media support team, a competition team, a combined team with both social media support and competition and a control group.
All groups had access to leaderboards, but in each group, the leaderboards showed different things.

For the competition team, they could see a leaderboard that told them how well the other teams were doing. The competition-driven teams were rewarded on how many classes they attended on average. The competition-driven people in the combined group could see how well other anonymous program members were performing. They too earned prizes based on their attendance.

In the social media support group team, individuals could chat with each other online and encourage their teammates to exercise. The social media support team did not see how the other teams were performing.
The control group had no idea about any social connectivity on the website.

The introduction of competition motivated participants to exercise overwhelmingly more than the social media support group. Participation rates were 90% higher in the competition team and the combined team, compared to those of the other two groups.

It was actually shown that the social media support group had no meaningful impact on increasing the exercise rate. It might have caused participants to exercise less.

So if you want to get into shape in 2019 consider joining a club or gym that encourages healthy competition. Here’s to a new you this 2019.

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