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



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.

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The authors wish to thank Sara Sherman and Kaitlynn Osborn and for their contributions in the execution of this study. All human studies have been approved by the MSU IRB and have therefore been performed in accordance with the ethical standards laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki. All persons gave their informed consent prior to their inclusion in the study.

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The authors have no conflict of interest to disclose.

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Correspondence to Brandon C. Irwin Ph.D..

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Irwin, B.C., Scorniaenchi, J., Kerr, N.L. et al. Aerobic Exercise Is Promoted when Individual Performance Affects the Group: A Test of the Kohler Motivation Gain Effect. ann. behav. med. 44, 151–159 (2012).

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  • Group performance
  • Group exercise
  • Exergame
  • Köhler effect
  • Motivation
  • Exercise partner