Looking to up your game when you hit the gym or pound the pavement? The secret might just be finding a workout partner who you know can kick your butt, according to a brand new study from Kansas State University.
Using stationary bicycling, researchers tested the social aspect of exercise, looking at whether participants amped up the time and intensity most when working out alone, riding with a virtual partner they were told was better than them, or competing with a teammate. And overall? Working out with a partner beat going it alone—by as much as 200 percent.
Here’s the breakdown: When going solo, people rode about 10 minutes. When working out with a partner they were told had performed 40 percent better than them in the first round, their time jumped to 19 minutes. When the partner was part of their team—and they thought they were the weak-link teammate who could throw their score—it jumped even higher, to 21 minutes. (And that’s all on average. The longer people rode, the greater the difference between solo bicycling times and team or partner rides.)
So how do you find that “perfect” workout partner, who will keep you going longer and harder for maximum fat burn or to get you that marathon PR? Researchers found that buddying up with someone about 40 percent better than you (enough to stay ahead of you—but not so far that all you see is his dust) works best. Set your goals, ask around, and don’t limit the possibiities to someone who can be there in person—even sharing a workout plan and comparing times digitally can help.