Robots, web cameras, help promote exercise

The statistics do not lie: US citizens are slackers when it comes to physical fitness. The CDC reports that only 20%t of Americans over 18 meet aerobic and strength-training guidelines. Now, technology could change that.

"We're finding that rarely, people are achieving the levels of duration and intensity," said Brandon Irwin, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology at Kansas State University.

His mission: to figure out what it takes to motivate people to get better results.

“What we're finding is that you can do that by partnering people with somebody else, through a video game," said Irwin.

He conducted a study where participants connected with a cyber-partner through a web-cam.

Someone they were told was slightly better than them playing this exercise game and cycling, but that live feed was really a recording.

"We've made it so that partner would never quit," said Irwin.

Without the cyber-partner, participants rode the bike an average of 10 minutes. With the cyber-partner, they doubled their riding time.

"from 10 to 20 minutes, that's a pretty significant jump," said Irwin.

Increasing workout time and intensity can have a huge impact on health. A study shows heart patients who walked at two miles per hour for 25 minutes two days a week lowered their risk of hospitalization or death by 10%. Those who walked at two and a half miles for 25 minutes, five days a week, lowered those risks by 25%.

Meanwhile, Irwin hopes his research leads to more motivating exer-games, and he is excited about other innovations in the works, such as the Joggobot.

The Joggobot turns this smartphone-controlled helicopter into your jogging buddy. It reads the bars on a t-shirt and flies in front of a jogging person. It can be programmed to keep pace with, or coach them to run faster.

The Joggobot is currently under development in Australia and is not available to the public at this point.

Flying robots and far-away workout partners, just a few things that can motivate people to work out harder and longer for a longer life.

Meanwhile, Irwin said he plans to do more cyber-partner exercise studies. He would also like to use his research to create an online exercise matchmaker that would pair people of similar fitness levels so they could work out together through web-cams.


BENEFITS OF EXERCISE: It is well known that exercise is important to a person's overall health, and everyone can benefit from exercise regardless of sex, age, or physical ability. (Source:

HOW MUCH EXERCISE: There has been conflicting suggestions on how much a person should exercise in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. In general, it is recommended that adults do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity 5 days a week. This includes older individuals who are still actively mobile and in fact, it is especially important for elderly people to maintain physical activity and mobility. (Source:
TIPS: Some tips on how to start exercising and keep at it:

* Do physical activities that are enjoyable. If a person doesn't like the exercise, they probably won't continue to do it.
* Start off slowly and gradually increase the intensity or frequency of the physical activity. Trying too much at the beginning can lead to frustration or even injury.
* Exercises that place high physical stresses on the bones are necessary for bone health.

EXERCISE FOR TWO: New research from Michigan State University reveals working out with a virtual partner improves motivation during exercise. Participants performed the first series of five exercises alone holding each position for as long as they could. After a rest period, they were told they would do the remaining trials with a same-sex virtual partner whom they could observe during their performance. The partner's performance was manipulated to be always superior to the participant's. Results showed that task persistence was significantly greater in all experimental conditions. ( Source: Michigan State University)

JOGGOBOT: Floyd Mueller and Grather, researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia, tricked out the Parrot AR Drone, which is usually operated with a smartphone, to fly autonomously. Using a built-in camera, the autonomous drone hones in on sensors in a custom shirt and exhorts you to keep up with it. You can set it for companion mode - in which the drone flies at a steady pace - or coach mode, which sets a slightly more challenging speed. The battery last for 5 hours. (

For More Information, Contact:

Brandon C. Irwin
Kansas State University
(475) 227-7770

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