“We are in this together” – Social Presence and Groupness predict satisfaction and intention to return in Zwift cycling groups


Exercising in groups has been linked to various adaptive outcomes. Yet, most research on the perceptions of physical activity groups has been conducted in face-to-face groups. Virtual exercise groups have been underexplored. Zwift, a mixed reality cycling application, offers a highly immersive experience and the opportunity to interact (via chat or voice) with other riders. The present study examined the relationship between social presence, groupness, satisfaction, and intention to return in mixed reality cycling (Zwift) group rides. A sample of 182 regular Zwift users completed a battery of online surveys, measuring social presence (i.e., the perception of being with others in a virtual space), groupness (i.e., being part of a group in the virtual space), as well as satisfaction with the cycling experience and intention to return. The data were analyzed using structural equation modelling. Social presence and groupness predicted over 40% of the variance of satisfaction, which in turn predicted 7.5% of the variance of intention to return to Zwift group rides. The goodness-of-fit indices suggested a good model fit (chi2/df = 2.01, TLI = .97, CFI = .99, RMSEA = .078, CI 95% = .000 - .149). Participants perceived a high degree of groupness despite exercising virtually. Similar to existing research, the perceptions of groupness were linked to adaptive outcomes. These findings suggest the potential of the group rides offered in Zwift for the promotion of physical activity and adherence. Furthermore, it may serve individuals who are seeking convenience, flexibility, and motivation when working out from home.