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The Impact of Social Category Diversity on Motivation Gains in Exercise Groups

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Objectives: Exercising with a virtual partner can increase motivation by 208%, but may be moderated by partner characteristics. We tested the impact of social category diversity (ingroup/outgroup membership) on motivation with a virtual exercise partner. Methods: Participants (N = 96) were randomized in a 3 (Condition: individual, partner-ingroup, partner-outgroup) x 2 (sex) x 2 (performance block: Block 1 & Block 2) design. Participants performed 2 sets of 5 abdominal plank exercises. Partnered conditions completed the second set of exercises with a virtual partner from either an ingroup ('Us') or outgroup ('Them'). Motivation was measured as fatigue-corrected exercise persistence (s). Results: Partnered conditions exercised longer (M = 67.31s, SD = 63.53s) than the individual condition. The 'Us' condition persisted longer (M = 79.61s, SD = 61.92s) than the 'Them' condition (M = 55.02s, SD = 65.14s), although this difference only approached significance (p = .127). Conclusions: Social category diversity is unlikely to undermine motivating effects of a moderately superior virtual partner. Group leaders and algorithms for group-based online interventions should consider partnering those who struggle to meet recommended levels of intensity and duration of physical activity with a moderately superior partner.
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Keywords: GROUP DYNAMICS; KÖHLER EFFECT; MOTIVATION; PHYSICAL ACTIVITY; SOCIAL SUPPORT; VIRTUAL PARTNER

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Assistant Professor, Kansas State University, Department of Kinesiology, Manhattan, KS;, Email: [email protected] 2: Kansas State University, Department of Kinesiology, Manhattan, KS

Publication date: May 1, 2016

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  • The American Journal of Health Behavior seeks to improve the quality of life through multidisciplinary health efforts in fostering a better understanding of the multidimensional nature of both individuals and social systems as they relate to health behaviors.

    The Journal aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of personal attributes, personality characteristics, behavior patterns, social structure, and processes on health maintenance, health restoration, and health improvement; to disseminate knowledge of holistic, multidisciplinary approaches to designing and implementing effective health programs; and to showcase health behavior analysis skills that have been proven to affect health improvement and recovery.

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