A Michigan State University researcher is using a video game to uncover key differences in what motivates men and women to go the “extra mile” during a workout.
The study, led by Deborah Feltz, a University Distinguished Professor of Kinesiology, gave participants the opportunity to watch an avatar of themselves exercise alongside a virtual partner, and was featured in the Games for Health Journal.
Results showed that male participants increased the duration of their exercise an average of 12.5 minutes longer, while women showed almost no effect.
“For women, to have the avatar in front of them was almost enough,” Feltz said. Women responded more positively to working out with their avatar, rather than competing with a partner.”
Eighty-two participants took part in the study and were evaluated on their performance during 12 sessions of aerobic exercise consisting of two types of partners; a consistently superior partner and another superior partner who showed signs of fatigue.
Feltz said that previous research has shown women are more motivated by the sense of being part of a team and not letting a partner down, instead of competing against someone.
“Instead of having partners, it might be more enjoyable for both men and women if they played with their partner against a team.”
But she added that because a team environment helps build social identity and camaraderie, this could be even more of a motivator for women in a workout setting.
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health funded the study. Other MSU researchers on the project included Karin Pfeiffer, associate professor in kinesiology, Norbert Kerr, professor of social science psychology, Brian Winn, associate professor in media and information and doctoral students Stephen Samendinger and Emery Max.
This article originally appeared on MSU Today.