Cedric Bryant, chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, in San Diego, said the results of the study are consistent with other behavior-modification research and applies to more than athletics.
"Just as with eating habits, if you're in the company of individuals who make prudent choices, you will make better choices yourself," Bryant said. "To me, the real nice message here is that hanging out with people who model positive behavior -- in this case virtually -- probably will have a positive effect on what you do as an individual."
But Bryant warned that pairing yourself with someone whose athletic prowess greatly exceeds your capacity could cause problems. "It would be demotivating, and you could over-train," he said.
The bottom line? Irwin advises people to find someone who is a little better than they are when exercising if their goal is to exercise longer or more vigorously. "Find someone who can challenge you," he said.
Learn more about strategies to increase physical activity from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Copyright © 2012 HealthDay. All rights reserved.