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Gamify Your Fitness and Weight Management Routine

A study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association adds to the mounting research showing how gamification gets people more involved with their fitness and rehab routines.(1) What’s more, researchers compared different types of gamification and found one to be the obvious winner.

What Is Gamification?

Gamification is the motivational technique of adding game playing elements such as competition, prizes, and scoring to activities. In healthcare, turning into games rehab and fitness activities not traditionally thought of as sports may have significant untapped potential.

Increase Your Daily Walking Motivation

In the current study, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia, tracked the daily step counters of more than 600 middle-aged, obese or overweight participants across 40 U.S. states. They gave each person in the control group daily step count goals and wrist pedometers. Three experimental groups received the same devices and goals plus one of three gamification strategies: social support, collaboration, and competition. At 6-month follow-up, all gamification groups had daily step counts that were 637 to 920 steps greater than the control group!

Which Gamification Strategy Worked Best?

The social support group received support from a friend or family member via email messages. The collaboration group participated in groups of three, with groups only able to proceed up a level if the group as a whole reached a certain number of points by the end of the week. The competition group competed individually for a spot on a leader board. At 6-month assessment, the competition group averaged 300 more daily steps than the other two gamification groups. Three months later, after all gamification had ended, only the competition group had a daily step count that was significantly greater than the control group – 569 more steps per day. Individual competition won the 36-week outcome this time.


  1. Patel MS, Small DS, Harrison JD, Fortunato MP, Oon AL, Rareshide CA, Reh G, Szwartz G, Guszcza J, Steier D, Kalra P. Effectiveness of behaviorally designed gamification interventions with social incentives for increasing physical activity among overweight and obese adults across the United States: the STEP UP randomized clinical trial. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2019 Dec 1;179(12):1624-32.

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