Play and lose weight: “Gamify” workouts to make exercising more fun
03/29/2019 // Edsel Cook // Views

Are you finding it difficult to motivate yourself to work out, even though you really want to lose weight and need to improve your health? Consider turning your boring session of physical exercise into a fun and exciting game, where every pound you shed is an achievement you can brag about.

The process of "gamification" adds the mechanics of a game to an exercise routine or another activity. It can increase the motivation, participation, and dedication of a person to his or her exercise routine.

More and more people are "gamifying" their workouts. With the help of activity trackers and fitness apps, they are turning chores into enjoyable events that they personally want to complete. They also like to show their success stories online.

Gamifying can offer a solution to the increasing lack of interest in doing any sort of physical activity. Studies conducted by research groups and organizations show that many people are not getting enough levels of aerobic and resistance exercises. As a result, the state of their health deteriorates, leaving them more vulnerable to ailments. (Related: Athletes who want to boost their game are recommended to try beetroot.)

Treating a workout as a competitive game could make exercise more interesting

A 2018 study by researchers from the University of Iowa exemplified the investigations of gamifying exercise routines and the corresponding effects on physical fitness. The experiment involved office workers who spend at least 75 percent of each working day in a seated position.


All the participants were equipped with Fitbit, a fitness tracker that measures the levels of physical activity of its user. Furthermore, half of them also used a web-based game called MapTrek, where the digital avatar of the user will travel through a map based on the number of steps recorded by Fitbit.

Every week, the members of the MapTrek group engaged in walking challenges to see who could travel the farthest in the game. The other group did not hold such competitions.

At the end of the 10-week-long study, the MapTrek group was shown to take many more steps than the Fitbit-only group. The gaming members also spent more minutes performing physical activity on a daily basis.

The researchers remarked that many of the MapTrek players demonstrated much greater motivation to wear their Fitbit, allowing them to self-monitor their physical activity. Furthermore, while both both groups were unable to sustain any spikes in activity levels, the gaming group cover far more steps than their counterparts.

Using gamification to help people adhere to healthy lifestyles for long periods of time

Dr. Yuri Quintana of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is one of the researchers who are interested in the potential of applying games to existing practices such as physical exercise. He notes the difficulty of getting people to take up a healthy behavior, much more sustaining that activity over time.

Quintana adds that combining traditional health support services with mobile apps has been shown to help patients stick to healthy lifestyles for longer periods. And while the above-mentioned study focuses on the short-term effects of gamification on the fitness behavior of people, the concept can also be applied to long-term practices.

"Traditional forms of education and communication have shown limited results," Quintana says. "Gamification shows promise, but long-term studies are needed to find the optimal blend of education and communication methods."

Proponents of gamifying physical exercise and fitness centers want to get people to consider healthy activities as fun. They want people to seriously ask questions like "Why am I working out?" and "How can this game help me stay active every day?"

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