Many people want to begin a disciplined workout program, but they can't find a decent workout partner to give them the extra nudge they need.

A Michigan State University researcher says a cyber buddy can help. The study, which appears in the Games for Health Journal, is the first to indicate that although a human partner is still a better motivator during exercise, a software-generated partner also can be effective.

Deborah Feltz, in MSU's kinesiology department, says they wanted to demonstrate that something that isn’t real can still motivate people to give greater effort while exercising than if they had to do it by themselves.

She led the study with co-investigator Brian Winn, associate professor in MSU’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences. Feltz believes implications from the research also could open the door for software and video game companies to create cyber buddy programs based on sport psychology.

She also says that unlike many of the current game designs out there, their results could allow developers to create exercise platforms that incorporate team or partner dynamics that are based on science.