Study shows gamification helps families increase step counts

New research shows gamification and exercising in groups helps us increase our daily steps counts.

Gamification is the process of utilizing game elements such as points and levels in nongame contexts. In the arena of health and fitness, this is becoming a popular field of research field.

Published in JAMA Internal Medicine, the latest study was conduced by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania and Boston University School of Medicine. Having looked at 200 adults comprising 94 families, the clinical trial showed participants in gamification had significantly increased step counts during the 12-week period under observation, than the control group.

Over the course of the study, participants tracked daily steps using a wearable device or a smartphone, established a baseline, selected a step goal increase and received daily feedback on progress. Families in the gamification group could earn points and progress through levels based on physical activity goal achievement. The game design was meant to enhance collaboration and support.

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Final results showed that families participating in games increased daily step counts by nearly one mile per day (1,661 steps), and achieved daily fitness goals 27% more than families who did not. The study also showed that these increased step counts persisted even after the game ended.

“Our social connections – family members, friends, and even colleagues – can be powerful motivators, but most programs target individuals instead of leveraging these social networks,” said lead author Mitesh Patel.

“Our findings demonstrate how gamification can be designed to harness these social influences to improve health behaviors. Since these relationships are often longstanding, the impact of these interventions has the potential to be long-lasting.”

Authors also note that further research is needed on the effects of gamification among more diverse populations, as well as measures that go beyond daily step counts.

The full study can be accessed through this link.

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