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How To Use Social Comparisons To Motivate Exercise

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If you want to run more, use social comparison as motivation.

Running is socially contagious, new research finds.

Data from 1 million runners collected over five years suggests that the running bug spreads from person to person.

Just knowing other people who run is enough to boost your motivation, it seems.

Professor Sinan Aral, a study author, said:

“Knowing the running behaviors of your friends as shared on social networks can cause you to run farther, faster, and longer.”

The study’s authors write:

“On the same day, on average, an additional kilometer run by friends can inspire someone to run an additional three-tenths of a kilometer and an additional ten minutes run by friends can inspire someone to run three minutes longer.”

Comparing yourself with others can motivate you in two ways:

  • When you compare yourself to someone who is doing better, it makes you want to catch up with them.
  • When you compare yourself to someone doing worse, it makes you want to maintain your advantage.

This study suggests that comparing yourself to someone who is doing better has the stronger motivational effect.

Men are particularly susceptible to the competitive instinct.

Both other men and other women can fire them up to greater achievements.

Women, though, tend to be mainly competitive with other women and are not generally motivated by comparing themselves with men.

The study was published in the journal Nature Communications (Aral & Nicolaides, 2017).