Scientists Say This is The #1 Way to Stay Motivated to Work Out

Hint — it may be time to unleash your inner competitive spirit.

By: Dominique Michelle Astorino

Feeling burnt out? You’re not alone. Many of us face times where we run out of steam, have too much on our plates, and just lose motivation. And, with everything going on, feeling completely zapped is easier than ever — and this directly impacts our motivation to work out. And (as you probably guessed) getting out of our exercise routine keeps us in this rut (cool, cool, cool). 

So… what can we do about it? We’re not just going to sit here and accept these cards; how can we pick ourselves up and refocus to get back on our A-game? As it turns out, research at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania (published in Preventive Medicine Reports from an October 2016 study) says there’s a top way to stay motivated: healthy competition.

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Harness Your Inner Competitive Streak & Find That Workout Motivation Again 

Workout motivation looks different for everyone, but a little friendly competition seems to be the ticket for the subjects studied (it was a group of 790 people, with a mean age of 25). The study compared four groups on an 11-week workout program: those who flew solo (this was the control group), and the remaining three were put on teams. 

Social Support

This is the cheerleader group (no competition). They got some encouragement from their teammates, and rewards were based on the team’s performance (work out more, get a prize). The incentive was to actively support your teammates to work out so everyone can win.

Social Comparison

This is the competition group. Individuals in this group competed against one another. There was a competitive ranking (think: scoreboard), and you could win a prize as an individual (no team prizes for this group).


This one combines the two group concepts (perhaps that was obvious). Participants were put on teams, which were competing against other teams. The teams could win a prize by beating out the competition.

This may not come as a surprise, but the two competitive groups (social comparison and combined) had astronomically better results in terms of how often they worked out — almost double that of the control group (the ones who were doing the program alone). 

The cool part (well, one of the cool parts) was that it wasn’t specific to any particular type of workout. These participants did Spin classes, Pilates, yoga, jogs, HIIT, and more.

What does this mean for us? It’s time to get into the competitive spirit. Who do you want to compete against? Who’s up for a friendly exercise challenge? 

It’s time to spice things up with your social circle and incentivize your sweat sessions.

Tap Into Your Social Networks

According to the study, there are good sides to this digital world we live in now. We can take certain “features of online social networks” and use them to our advantage. Start a pool: get your friends together for a live workout program, and maybe add some incentive to the mix. For instance… perhaps the person who does the most classes gets a free new pair of sneakers, paid for by everyone else in the group?! Just a thought.

And just so you know: FitOn offers FitOn Party — think: live video with friends, working out together at home. So you could even compete within a single workout together (the world is your oyster, friend).

RELATED: How FitOn Trainers Stay Motivated to Work Out 

Don’t Go It Alone 

If we learned anything from this study (aside from the fact that we humans are pretty damn competitive) — it’s that you don’t have to do any of this alone, and in fact, you’ll be better off if you bring some buddies into the mix.

Social connection, even in digital form (especially in 2020), is vital to our success both in and out of the gym. Damon Centola, Ph.D., who headed up this study said, “When done right, we found that social media can increase people’s fitness dramatically.” So use the tools you have on hand to your advantage — your body and brain will thank you.

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