The next time that you go to the gym, you might want to bring a friend with you, not for someone to socialize with, but someone to compete with. A new study done at The University of Pennsylvania suggests that a little friendly competition is the best way to stay motivated in the gym.

The researchers assigned 800 students at the university an 11- week-long gym regimen to test whether friendly camaraderie or hardcore competitiveness is an effective motivator in getting people to exercise. The students attended various workout classes including yoga, spin, weightlifting, pilates and running. The more classes they attended, the higher score they received. The ultimate goal was to have the highest workout class attendance, as an individual or as a team.

Students who were given access to their peers’ scores, attended 90 percent more exercise classes than students who were not.

Study author Damon Centola said, “As people were influenced by their neighbors to exercise more, it created a social ratchet, where everyone increased everyone else’s activity levels.”

SUNY Plattsburgh Fitness Center Trainer Todd Wainman encourages friendly competition in the gym and said his friends are his biggest inspiration when it comes to tailoring his fitness goals.

“Working out with others can help you have better workouts,” Wainman said. “It’s always good to have someone there to help challenge you and push you through any type of mental blocks you may have.”

Wainman began working out in high school to better his performance in sports.

“I’ve played sports my whole life, so I guess in a way, I have always been into fitness,” Wainman said. “As far as going to the gym, I started working out regularly when I was a senior in high school. I was working out to improve performance in baseball, basketball and golf.”

For individuals who are serious about reaching their fitness goals, Wainman suggests recording workouts and tracking your progress to stay motivated.

“Be patient, results don’t happen overnight. They take months of hard work and dedication to achieve,” he said.

PSUC junior business administration, accounting and management information systems major Molly Power works out with her boyfriend and is an advocate of friendly competition in the gym.

“I enjoy working out with him because it is motivating and makes me realize that my body can do more than I think it can do sometimes,” Power said.

Power started to take fitness seriously her senior year of high school, and is dedicated to her workout regimen at least four to five days a week at the PSUC Fitness Center.

Although Power encourages friendly competition in the gym, she said it’s important not to take it too seriously.

“I think some people can push themselves too far when competing with friends and potentially hurt themselves,” Power said.

Power was a basketball player growing up, and began working out at a gym to stay active when not playing the sport. She ventured from the cardio machines to the weight room when her sister, a powerlifter, inspired her to weightlift.

“It’s important to keep an open mind to all types of exercise whether it be cardio, lifting weights or exercise classes,” Power said. “And to workout with someone experienced, so you can learn the correct form to avoid injuries.”

Power’s boyfriend, a graduate from Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, Conor McMorrow-Kwalwasser, loves to workout with people who enjoy fitness as much as he does.

“I love friendly competition in the gym,” McMorrow-Kwalwasser said. “It helps me push myself to do that extra rep that I otherwise wouldn’t do.”

McMorrow-Kwalwasser was inspired to begin working out when his brother and friends started going to the gym regularly.

“Seeing my friends and brother bettering their health, motivated me to get started on my own fitness journey,” McMorrow-Kwalwasser said.

When Power began working out, McMorrow-Kwalwasser would write up workouts for her. Power said this helped her remain accountable with her fitness goals.

The study at the University of Pennsylvania found that being able to track your friends’ performance provides even more motivation than just their support and encouragement. There are apps available, such as the Iphone app Fit Friendzy, which enables users to invite their friends to compete in fitness challenges. Users can track the statistics of their routines and training, including distance, speed, calories burned, all while comparing them to their friends’ results.

With the holiday season approaching, and the abundance of cookie consumption, a little competition in the gym might do the waistlines some good.

Email Ashleigh Choppa at cp@cardinalpointsonline.com

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