Is it Possible to Properly Gamify Health and Fitness?

The term “gamification” is a growing concept across many industries. Essentially, it means to turn virtually any task into something that is both engaging and entertaining, like games. It’s been used in everything from a business dynamic to health and fitness. In fact, many of you probably don’t even realize you’re participating in this type of entertainment. Is it possible to properly gamify health and fitness? Well, that is up to how you adapt to the concept.

How to Gamify Health and Fitness

exercise funGamification can work in just about any industry for any purpose. What you need to focus on is how to make the process entertaining. That’s the whole premise behind what makes a game fun. Unfortunately, this can be drastically different from one person to the next.

For instance, one person can love the trash-talking and aggressive audience who play the popular online game, League of Legends. Another person may get ultimately cranky at the idea of playing with a bunch of immature young adults who do nothing but whine about players who lack skills.

So, what do you need to do to gamify health and fitness while having a good time?




1. Develop an Engaging Dynamic

The driving force behind any game is an engaging dynamic. This is why there are so many different genres for entertainment with adamant fans. Baseball is completely different from golf, but both have a strong following.

You don’t want to commit yourself to something you think is boring or mundane. For instance, I know a lot of people who bought workout DVDs only to lose interest in them three months later. There’s only so many times you can do the exact same routine over and over again.

Something that has an obvious end result may be the best way to go. An example of this is how I put effort into trying to beat my personal records. I geeked out recently because I was able to do 20 push-ups without popping a vein in my forehead. It was my personal record. Now, I am working to break it by doing 25.

Finding something that can be done in a “gaming” way may take a bit of imagination. However, it’s worth the effort if you find something that repeatedly draws your attention.

Here’s another example. I’m a fan of Magic: the Gathering. It’s a card game where the purpose is to drive the life total of your opponent to zero. I take this and put it into a mindset with MyFitnessPal. Essentially, I imagine the calories as my “life” total while recording food for the day. If I stay in the green by the end, I win. If my “life” total goes in the red before I go to sleep, then I lose.

I know…it’s a bit geeky. But, it’s what works for me. And that’s the point I am trying to make. Finding something that works for you that will gamify health and fitness for your purposes.

2. Add a Bit of Competition

Being Social for FitnessThere’s nothing wrong with competition when trying to gamify health. I know some will feel cranky with the prospect of competing with others, but it can be quite beneficial for driving motivation.

If you don’t want to socialize the experience, compete against yourself. I mentioned how I love to break my own records. In essence, I am competing with myself in that regard. Since I have a Fitbit Charge HR, I can also track my calorie burn for the day and strive to break my daily average.

It’s all about finding those elements that keep you motivated to improve. I make Sundays or Mondays my record-breaking days. I then work during the week to improve myself before those “events.” For example, I would spend the week doing ab workouts if I want to set a new personal record for planks on Sunday.

When you think about it, to gamify health is not much different from training as an athlete. Whether it’s a professional golfer or a star quarterback for the NFL, training improves ability. The same can be said for the average Joe in terms of health and general fitness.

3. Promote a Logical Award System

So, what do you get by “winning” your game of health for the day? Or week? Or even month? Unfortunately, some people have a poor concept of an award system when it comes to health. How many people you know celebrate losing 10 pounds by going out to have an over-filling pizza dinner?

And yes, I raised my hand as well.

A logical award system shouldn’t include the very thing you’re trying to avoid. While there’s nothing truly wrong with gorging yourself for one day, as long as you’re back on track the next, it can set you back.

In reality, an award can be something intangible or just part of a goal. For me, it’s bragging rights. Take today, for example. I just completed my first “run” since I was in high school. It was only about a third of a mile, but it was an accomplishment considering I couldn’t do it this time last year.

My award, knowing I just took 2,000 steps towards looking like Captain America for Halloween.

In reality, an award system needs to be something that drives you to succeed. Something that you enjoy that is the icing on the cake. Whether it’s real cake or something metaphoric, the award has to drive you to greatness.

What Do You Have to Do to Gamify Health?

Anyone can gamify almost anything if they put their minds to it. Whether you buy an Xbox Kinect or you like setting personal records, it really depends on how you view health and fitness to begin with.

Change Your Mindset

Obese ChildrenYour mindset is perhaps one of the biggest hurdles to overcome when it comes to being healthy. I’m not just talking about depression, although that by itself can greatly alter what and how much you eat. I’m talking about simply being happy living the way you do.

Sure, I could say to hell with it and just be happy being obese. The problem is, I’d rather be alive and happy. Being overweight, for me, is nothing to be proud of. It greatly shortens lifespans, causes a variety of health issues and prevents you from doing many things.

I know some people think I’m probably going to start fat-shaming. That’s not what I am trying to do. I am simply pointing out that you can be happy and healthy instead of simply content with life.

Personally, I am excited to go hiking again without having to stop every five feet to catch my breath. I would love to be on a city league for a sport. And I love the idea of shopping without straining myself when I have to lift something heavy.

Be Willing to Alter Your Habits

One reason why a lot of people fail at diets and trying to lose weight is because of their unwillingness to alter their habits. I know many people simply have a hard time trying to be healthy. I’m talking more about the people who absolutely refuse to eat healthier because they are lazy or don’t want to give up Mickey Ds.

I believe that you don’t fully have to give up the “bad” stuff to be healthy. However, you need to develop a habit of adding “good” stuff as well. It’s OK to have a Big Mac once in a while as long as you can maintain physical activity and add in a healthy snack. Fast food should be more of a special occasion type of thing, not a staple of life.

Trust me. I know how hard it is to break certain habits. But if you want to be healthier and live longer, the ends justify the means.

Let the System Work For You

Fitness Buddy WalkingIn order for any healthy decision to work, you have to let it. That includes the prospect to gamify health and fitness. If you go in with the mindset that you’ll fail, chances are you will. This is problematic for many people on diets and exercise routines.

If you truly want to gamify health and fitness, you have to let it work. You need to embrace the idea that it’s going to be beneficial for you in the long run. Otherwise, it will become that much harder to succeed whether you’re trying to lose weight or break a personal record.

A lot of people get cranky when there are no immediate results. You need to realize that health and fitness isn’t an overnight fix. It takes a great deal of work and effort. Even those who have weight loss surgeries are subject to live unhealthy lives if they don’t change their way of eating.

If you find a good method to gamify health and fitness for yourself, let it work for you. Don’t let the lack of instant gratification dissuade you from improvement.

You Are Your Own Worst Adversary

A lot of people get exceptionally cranky when they don’t win. This is especially true in online gaming, such as playing League of Legends or Smite. Gamification doesn’t have to be filled with those kinds of environments. To properly gamify health and fitness, it’s really up to each individual person to find what works best with him or her. Some people only need a simple push from “friends” on Fitbit while others need that engaging competitive edge to keep them motivated.

It all boils down to how you adapt to bringing a gaming atmosphere into being healthier and living longer.

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Michael Brockbank

Michael is a work at home father who has completed a wide assortment of writing regarding various topics. Currently, he is working to achieve a weight loss goal and improve health in order to cross the state of Colorado on bicycle.

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