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By Dr. Dave Hnida

(CBS4) – If you’ve got social contacts who post their running stats online, does that motivate you to get out and exercise? And exercise even more than they did? Evidently for many who use exercise apps, the answer is yes.

Researchers at MIT analyzed the info from more than 1.1 million people over a five-year period and found that those who see friends post up times and distances seem to be a little more juiced to run a bit more — a bit farther — as well as a bit faster than their buds. Bottom line, conclusion of the study: if you see what your contacts are doing, you are more likely to be motivated to get out and work out, as well as work out harder and better.

Personally, I thought the most motivated would be those folks who saw contacts post a stellar workout, so they would want to go out and show they had the right stuff to do as well, if not better.

But the research suggested for most, the motivation was different. It seems the slower or shorter their contacts went, the more motivated they were to do even more. Especially the same or next day. I guess really show someone up.

I don’t want to get into the psychology of feeling superior when it comes to workouts, but it sure seems like that’s a fairly big motivator for a lot of exercise data crunchers on social media (needless to say, with my snail-like runs, I must motivate a lot of people).

The important takeaway from the study is the fact that this is one situation where some smartphone time and info sharing isn’t such a bad thing, in fact, it can be a healthy thing when it becomes a habit.

There are a lot out of apps there — many are free — have at it.

I use “Map My Run.” Other popular ones include Endomondo, Strava, and My Fitness Pal.

But as I said, there are dozens more that you might like better , and will fit your needs (as well as your social contacts). Give it a shot.

Dr. Dave Hnida is CBS4’s Medical Editor. He blogs about the latest studies and trends in the health world. Read his latest blog entries, check out his bio or follow him on Twitter @drdavehnida.

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