Gamifying Health and Fitness

Apr 29, 2018 | 1 Votes by jose 10 rate Your vote
The use of gaming to enhance physical fitness and workout routines is gaining much popularity. Let's take a look how games turn fitness activities into immersive experiences. WWGDB - Gamifying Health and Fitness

Keeping oneself in good shape through a proper diet and enough exercise is not an easy task to accomplish. The key to success is in doing it on a regular basis until it becomes a habit and an essential part of ones life. However, for those who are overweight, the risk posed to one's health and overall wellbeing is dangerously greater and has to be dealt with at the soonest possible time.

For those who are just starting up a fitness routine, one may need some strong motivation and push to get going and keep it up till certain health and/or physical objectives are met. Getting into the habit can be really difficult as most will begin their training and may end up lagging or totaly drop off along the way. Those who have tried various diet methods (specially those used to eating the foods they love) are quite familiar with the difficulty entailed in such activities. If eating could be a problem, then what more with exercise.

Behavioral researcher and author Yu-kai Chou came up with a solution to motivate people to persevere with probably almost any activity by applying certain core psychological drives which he surprisingly found existed in computer games. These drives where the main reason behind game addiction and why games became so immersive in the first place. Chou was able to identify eight core drives and one underlying drive and after testing and proving it, he called it the Octalysis Gamification Framework.

His framework became so popular that health and fitness trainers in collaboration with software app and game developers used it to create the health and fitness game genre. These are not the regular run-of-the-mill video games that everyone is used to playing while sitting down or standing idle in a corner. They may be a bit similar to the Wii controller waving games, the Dance Dance Kinect games or the VR movement oriented simulations in that they all do elicit physical action of some kind. However, Fitness Gamification games are a little bit more complex and specialized as they follow and adhere to certain parameters which have to do with the science of physical exercise.

As mentioned, there are eight drives that go into the design of such fitness oriented apps and games that will immerse users to keep them busy following given exercise routines on a regular if not daily basis. The following drives are:

Epic Meaning & Calling: A lot of people love listening to Mariah Carey as she wonderfully sings about a Hero who comes along with the strength to carry on, well you know (Love the song). This drive manifests the need to do something greater than oneself. To be the chosen "one" that swallows the red pill and destroys the matrix. The guy who gets things done and drives single handedly through the Flood and outwits the Alien Covenant. I am Master Chief !!!

Development & Accomplishment: Almost everyone takes pride in a sense of accomplishment. To learn skills, make progress, overcome challenges and rise through the ranks. In gaming parlance, these are your level-ups, points, leader boards and badges.

Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback: This is the drive that comes into effect when people are engaged in a creative process where they have to repeatedly solve puzzles, figure things out and try different things to overcome a need or problem. They need to see the result of their creative efforts, receive feedback and respond to it. A good example would be the game Portal where you have to help Chelle outwit GLaDOS and get through Aperture Science "Still Alive".

Ownership & Possession: The drive that motivates people to own something. When a gamer experiences ownership, there is a need to make what one owns better (upgrade) and to own more. This drive can be seen in idle-clicker games where the more you earn the more you want more. Ownership & Possession also includes spending time customizing your game avatar and collecting as many Pokémons as you can.

Social Influence & Relatedness: This is the drive that relates to the social aspect of gaming. These include acceptance, camaraderie, mentorship, social response, competition and envy. The need to walk the walk and talk the talk. To feel a connection with someone or something while playing the game. The reason why there are Clans and Teams in CounterStrike.

Scarcity & Impatience: The drive of wanting something you just can't have. You will have to either wait or grind for it. For those who have been playing since the 80's, Karateka is a very good example of this. To get to the lovely Princess Mariko, you will have to go through Akuma and his henchmen and that pesky bird which you have to kick at the right moment. Patience Daniel San!

Unpredictability & Curiosity: The drive of wanting to find out what will happen next. It's like when you have a DVD of your favorite TV series and after one episode you need to know what happens next and before you know it you've watched five episodes straight in one sitting. Likewise, you can't stop playing the game as you need to know what happens in the next cut-scenes.

Loss & Avoidance: This drive is based on the need to avoid something bad or negative from happening. The need to stay on till you reach a safe zone to save your game. This goes back to games like Halo where you have to reach the checkpoints in order to save the game. If you stop playing before reaching the next checkpoint, you'll have to start again from the last and everything Master Chief just did goes to waste.

Aside from these eight core drives is the underlying drive of sensation. This is when you get feedback through wonderful and colorful things happening on the screen (eye candy) and/or other experiences like awesome soundtracks and sound effects and haptic feedback through controllers or VR equipment.

Imagine these drives being applied to fitness and health programs. The user will feel like he's playing a video game (which he actually is) and will be so immersed in it that going through the exercises and physical activity becomes actually fun. You may get exhausted and sweat a lot but your body becomes a part of that which controls the game.

These Health and Fitness game apps not only provide a motivation to the player but monitor the users physical state and performance as well. They can be mobile apps that run on your smartphone which you can take with you during outdoor exercise routines and activities. They can also be both PC and Console based which are interfaced to or used in tandem with indoor fitness devices like the exercise bikes and treadmills in a gym and those that can simply be followed and played while doing the exercises.

FitBit Coach



One such fitness game application that comes to mind is the Fitbit Coach personalized training app. Fitbit is a serious no-nonsense professionally designed fitness program that contains motivational elements from the Octalysis Gamification Framework. The app gives the user the feel of playing a video game while burning excess body weight. The main Fitbit program which is composed of monitored audio and video workouts runs on the Xbox One console series as well as on a PC with Windows 10. Fitbit Coach however is subscription based if you would want to have access to it's library of fitness workouts.

Likewise, Fitbit has workout programs that you can use outdoors as well. From outside walking workouts to treadmill workouts you can use at home or in the gym, Fitbit has a wide selection to choose from that will fit your personal exercise routine. The program also advices users to use a Fitbit tracker or a smart watch to continually monitor ones heart rate as this will be displayed on the app itself and used to gauge one's progress.

Fitness Fantasy gameplay



Fitness Fantasy (a.k.a. Fitness RPG) is a mobile fitness app that takes a slightly different approach in that it is a free2play Pedometer and RPG at the same time. You will have to lead your team of heroes in completing their quest as you upgrade and level them up by performing required exercises and workouts. The game plays like a regular RPG where you can even go PVP. The only difference is that you will have to exert physical effort to move forward in the game. Fitness Fantasy can even connect and sync steps to Professional coaching programs like Fitbit.

There are already many health and fitness oriented and specially designed games currently available in the market. Though the genre is still new, a lot of positive results have already been observed and noted. However, whether one is in good physical shape or suffering from risky health problems, it is always good advise to seek professional fitness and health supervision to be able to optimize the use of these apps in a safe and correct manner.

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