Motivation is a funny thing. It seems to pop up out of nowhere and then vanish when we need it most. Exercise motivation is something everyone struggles with from time to time and given that gyms were closed for a large chunk of this year, it would make sense if you haven’t been as active.
If you experience a lack of motivation when it comes to working out, there might be a way to help this thanks to research published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. Researchers from Western University have found that a workout partner coupled with a reward might be enough to get you going.
In order to understand how incentive affects motivation, researchers looked at the fitness app Carrot which gives users financial benefits for exercising. For example, when you increase the number of steps you do each day, you’re awarded points that give you discounts on things like petrol and movie tickets.
The app also introduced a new feature where users could partner up with a friend in order to get more points. According to mindbodygreen, researchers found this new approach led to 1,100 more steps on average for over 60,000 paired users during a 24-week period.
Somewhat surprisingly, at the end of the first 12 weeks of the new initiative, partners on the Carrot app had barely earned enough points to buy a cup of coffee but were still spurred on to make their daily step count.
“Even though it’s a very small reward, it does motivate people both to participate in the challenge and to achieve the challenge,” said lead author of the study, Emma Pearson. “Having a partner who shares the same aims and rewards builds on that incentive. It’s feeling connected with someone, having someone to hold them accountable.”
Using an app where you can partner up with friends to reach goals is also a great way of finding connection when you’re separated by distance or in the case of this year, a pandemic.
“When it’s more of a struggle getting people to get together and helping people improve their physical activity levels, you can still connect virtually,” Pearson said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently released a recommendation on how much movement people should be engaging in every week, especially in light of the pandemic which has made many people more sedentary. The WHO recommends adults engaged in 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity. This was also the same recommendation for older adults and those with chronic conditions or disabilities.
Children, on the other hand, should be active for at least 60 minutes a day, according to the WHO, and the activity should be of moderate to vigorous physical activity. Three days a week, it is recommended that kids engage in aerobic activity in order to strengthen their muscles and bones.
“Being physically active is critical for health and well-being – it can help to add years to life and life to years,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
In fact, the WHO says that four to five million deaths per year could be averted if people were more active. If you’re struggling to meet these activity recommendations, consider linking up with a friend and building a reward into your workout routine. It could be as simple as popping a few dollars away each time you and a friend work out and putting the money towards a future outing together.