Original Article

Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 151-159

First online:

Aerobic Exercise Is Promoted when Individual Performance Affects the Group: A Test of the Kohler Motivation Gain Effect

  • Brandon C. IrwinAffiliated withKinesiology, Michigan State University Email author 
  • , Jennifer ScorniaenchiAffiliated withKinesiology, Michigan State University
  • , Norbert L. KerrAffiliated withKinesiology, Michigan State University
  • , Joey C. EisenmannAffiliated withKinesiology, Michigan State University
  • , Deborah L. FeltzAffiliated withKinesiology, Michigan State University

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A key barrier to achieving recommended intensity and duration of physical activity is motivation.


We investigated whether a virtually present partner would influence participants’ motivation (duration) during aerobic exercise.


Fifty-eight females (M age = 20.54 ± 1.86) were randomly assigned to either a coactive condition (exercising alongside another person, independently), a conjunctive condition (performance determined by whichever partner stops exercising first) where they exercised with a superior partner, or to an individual condition. Participants exercised on a stationary bike at 65 % of heart rate reserve on six separate days.


Across sessions, conjunctive condition participants exercised significantly longer (M = 21.89 min, SD = ±10.08 min) than those in coactive (M = 19.77 min, SD = ± 9.00 min) and individual (M = 10.6 min, SD = ±5.84 min) conditions (p < 0.05).


Exercising with a virtually present partner can improve performance on an aerobic exercise task across multiple sessions.


Group performance Group exercise Exergame Köhler effect Motivation Exercise partner