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Gamify Your Workouts

If you're beside me on a treadmill... we're racing!
If you're beside me on a treadmill...
we're racing!

Getting the motivation to exercise regularly can be difficult. A late meeting or if you’re feeling a little tired can derail the best intentions. Willpower works for a few, but many decide to skip it.

Researchers found that gamifying workouts can help. People exercised more often, and each workout was significantly more intense if there were gaming options. There are several ways to approach it. Use your workouts to earn points, unlock activities or compete against others. Here are a few “games” and gamifying ideas to keep you going back.

Start with a reward system. You could get points, gold stars or chips to track your progress. Then decide what you’ll earn. If you’re using points, you might give yourself some for each workout, for completing several workouts in a row and for how long an exercise session lasts.

The long-term benchmarks are essential. Working toward bigger rewards can keep you motivated while building lifelong healthy habits.

Then make a list of what you can buy with those points. Watching a movie, playing a video game, treating yourself to dessert or spending extra time on social media might be smaller rewards. Dining out at a fancy restaurant, an overnight trip or an indulgent purchase could be the larger rewards. The smaller rewards should be attainable at least once a week, while the larger ones should take a month or two to earn.

If you don’t want to track points, set up challenges to beat your best time or the best time of a workout partner. These are called AMRAP challenges which mean As Many Reps As Possible.

Timed challenge alone. Choose an exercise like burpees, pull-ups or pushups. Start with one minute on the timer. Then see how many reps you can complete in that sixty seconds. Save your highest number, and every time you do the challenge, try and beat it.

Gamify Your Workouts

Timed challenge with a partner. Pick an exercise you can do facing someone, like dumbbell curls. You start by doing a single rep; then your partner has to do one. You increase that to two reps, and your partner has to do the same thing. Keep increasing or “laddering” it by one rep each time until one of you can’t complete the set.

Timed challenge with a group. Each person gets on a treadmill, bike or rowing machine. Then you do 30-second intervals for 10 minutes. That’s 30 seconds putting out your maximum effort followed by 30 seconds of rest. After 10 minutes, the person who has gone the farthest distance wins.

These challenges are great ways to finish a workout since they often use up every last bit of your energy. Just make sure to do a challenge that’s appropriate for your personality. If you get easily discouraged when you lose to someone else, concentrate on doing things where you’re only competing against your previous best time. If you love competition, find workout partners that push you to do better.

Finally, you can use Apps and tech to track things automatically.

Dedicated fitness trackers, smartwatches and smartphones can now all track what you do. If you’re looking for more precision, you can see how many steps you’ve taken, how fast you’ve moved and how many calories you’ve burned. Then you can use the numbers they give at the end of your workout to calculate how many points you’ve earned.

You can also use specialized apps that use your exercises to advance a story. Here are two that are particularly engaging.

Zombies, Run! turns running into a fight for your life. Set in a zombie apocalypse, the app monitors how fast you’re running. If you keep moving, the story continues. Slow down too much, and you’ll hear the zombies getting closer. Along the way, you gather supplies, rescue survivors, and defend their homes. You’ll find it at: zombiesrungame.com.

7-Minute Superhero Workout makes you defend Earth against an alien attack. There are 20 story missions, and the camera on your phone tracks everything you do AND how much you’ve improved from one session to another. You’ll find it at: sixtostart.com/superhero-workout.

Reference Links:

Effect of Behaviorally Designed Gamification With Social Incentives on Lifestyle Modification Among Adults With Uncontrolled Diabetes

Mitesh S. Patel, MD, MBA; Dylan S. Small, PhD; Joseph D. Harrison, MBDS
JAMA Network Open, May 24, 2021;4(5):e2110255. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.10255

Click Here for the Study


Effect of a Game-Based Intervention Designed to Enhance Social Incentives to Increase Physical Activity Among Families

Mitesh S. Patel, MD, MBA, MS,corresponding author Emelia J. Benjamin, MD, ScM, Kevin G. Volpp, MD, PhD, Caroline S. Fox, MD, MPH, Dylan S. Small, PhD, Joseph M. Massaro, PhD, Jane J. Lee, PhD, Victoria Hilbert, MPH, RD, Maureen Valentino, BA, Devon H. Taylor, MPH, Emily S. Manders, BS, Karen Mutalik, BS, Jingsan Zhu, MBA, MS, Wenli Wang, MS, and Joanne M. Murabito, MD, ScM
JAMA Internal Medicine, 2017 Nov; 177(11): 1586–1593. Published online 2017 Nov 6. Prepublished online 2017 Oct 2. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.3458

Click Here for the Study


Gamifying Accelerometer Use Increases Physical Activity Levels of Sedentary Office Workers

Allene L. Gremaud, MS, Lucas J. Carr, PhD,corresponding author Jacob E. Simmering, PhD, Nicholas J. Evans, BS, James F. Cremer, PhD, Alberto M. Segre, PhD, Linnea A. Polgreen, PhD, and Philip M. Polgreen, MD, MPH
Journal of the American Heart Association, 20J Am Heart Assoc. 2018 Jul 3; 7(13): e007735. Published online 2018 Jul 2. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.117.007735

Click Here for the Study

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