Why ‘gamifying’ Your Workout Can Boost Your Fitness

Basketball game in park
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Exercise-focused video games—like those Wii sports titles that merged playing with exercising—have showed some promise in getting generally lazy kids (and adults) off their couches. More recently, smartphone games like Pokémon Go and the emergence of quality virtual reality games are continuing the trend.

But let’s say you remove the screen and apply the same video-game vocabulary (points and leveling up, for instance) to your workouts, a process called “gamification”. What then?

As it turns out, simply gamifying your fitness routine could help you increase your activity—and even your entire family’s levels of activity, according to a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

In the study, a 24-week clinical trial, scientists focused on 200 adults from 94 families who were enrolled in a heart study. Each person had a fitness tracker of some sort. For 12 weeks, half the participants played a game with their families in which points were earned through activities like “collaboration,” “accountability,” and “physical exercise“.

At the end of the first 12-week period, those who played the game met their activity goals on more days, and had a greater increase in average daily steps, compared to the group that wasn’t involved in the game. And while that advantage had tapered off about 12 weeks after the study ended, the gamified group still recorded better numbers than the control group.

“Our findings suggest that gamification may offer a promising approach to change health behaviors if designed using insights from behavioral economics to enhance social incentives,” the authors concluded.

That’s no surprise for sports fanatics, of course. Few things can work up a sweat like full-court one-on-one, but you’d never notice it because you’re too busy trying to dunk on your friend from high school.

As for you Pokémon Go fanatics? Here’s our ultimate training guide for getting off the couch and developing the cardiovascular fitness you need to level up that Wartortle.

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