Effect of Peer Influence on Exercise Behavior and Enjoyment in Recreational Runners

J Strength Cond Res. 2016 Feb;30(2):497-503. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001064.


Fitness professionals and popular media sources often recommend exercising with a partner to increase exercise motivation, adherence, intensity, and/or duration. Although competition with peers has been shown to enhance maximal athletic performance, experimental research examining the impact of peer influence on submaximal exercise behavior in adults is limited. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of the presence of familiar and unfamiliar peers, vs. running alone, on recreational runners' voluntary running duration, distance, intensity, liking (i.e., enjoyment), and ratings of perceived exertion (RPEs). Recreational runners (n = 12 males, n = 12 females) completed 3 experimental trials, each under a different social condition, in a randomized order. Each trial consisted of self-paced running for a duration voluntarily determined by the participant. The 3 social conditions were running alone, with a sex- and fitness-matched familiar peer, or with a sex- and fitness-matched unfamiliar peer. A wrist-worn global positioning system was used to record running duration, distance, and average speed. Liking and RPE were assessed at the end of each trial. Mixed model regression analysis showed no significant effects of social condition (p ≥ 0.40) for any of the dependent variables. The presence of a familiar or unfamiliar peer did not alter recreational runners' running behavior, liking, or perceived exertion during submaximal exercise. However, exercising with others may have other benefits (e.g., reduced attrition) not examined herein.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletic Performance / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Peer Influence*
  • Perception
  • Physical Exertion
  • Running / psychology*