Turns out, watching competitors cry, scream, and wince their way through workouts and strenuous exercise regimens in order to outlose pounds does little to motivate viewers at home in their own attempts to exercise more.

Sitting atop the television ratings charts, The Biggest Loser show is actually more likely to turn viewers off to the idea of physical activity as a weight-loss method due to the extreme and negative way exercise is depicted, finds new University of Alberta research.

When 138 undergraduate students watched a short clip either from The Biggest Loser or from American Idol, then immediately jotted down their first five thoughts, researchers found those who watched The Biggest Loser to have more negative attitudes toward physical activity than those who watched American Idol.

What’s more, the results were consistent no matter what the participants’ weight or level of physical activity was.

The depictions of exercise on shows such as The Biggest Loser are negative, said researchers.

“People are screaming and crying and throwing up, and if you’re not a regular exerciser you might think this is what exercise is—that it’s this horrible experience where you have to push yourself to the extremes and the limits, which is completely wrong,” said lead study author Tanya Berry, PhD, who is the Canada Research Chair in Physical Activity Promotion, in a statement.

The results call into question the common belief that shows like The Biggest Lower motivate sedentary people to get off the couch and start exercising.

If you’d like to adopt a more healthy lifestyle, consider linking up with an exercise buddy or two who live nearby as a way to keep moving toward your fitness goals. With your workout friends, you’ll actually schedule days and times to meet and, uh, work out together. This strategy definitely requires a lot more doing and a lot less watching.

The study will appear in the January 2013 issue of the American Journal of Health Behavior and was partially funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

How do You keep pumped up about working out? Does a playlist or buddy motivate You?