All you need to know about exercise and gamification...

Over the last few years, the word ‘gamification’ is being used more and more. So what does it actually mean?

The Oxford Dictionary defines it as…The application of typical elements of game playing (e.g. point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity: gamification is exciting because it promises to make the hard stuff in life fun.

So, to roughly summarise, add gaming to something that’s difficult or boring and suddenly it becomes more fun and easy. You could in theory apply this to anything: learning, tasks at work and, of course, exercise.

Technically anything can be made fun...

How can gamification help us?

It can sometimes be really hard to motivate ourselves to exercise. If we’re being honest, most of us would probably rather spend an hour or two sitting on the sofa instead of hitting the gym, particularly when it’s dark and cold outside and we’ve had a long day at work. We need to be able to see some rewards or benefits from exercise before we can really commit. Once we have those in sight, it’s a lot easier to make ourselves do something that we would otherwise find difficult.

Not seeing immediate changes in body shape, fitness or strength is often the reason why many people who are new to exercise will quickly give up. It’s hard to see past the fact that the time, pain and fatigue in the short term will have many longer term health benefits.

If we can add something to exercise that makes it extra fun, rewarding and engaging from the start then suddenly we can look at it in a whole new light. Gamification works so well because it can create a feeling of reward and a sense of achievement, thereby helping to keep exercise novices engaged and motivated to keep on going. The kudos you get on apps like Strava from other users when you've completed a run, or a 'well done' from your fitness app contribute to this sense of achievement and progress. The more rewarded we feel when doing exercise, the more likely we will be to keep on doing it.

Windows' TRAINR app

Windows' TRAINR app


Examples of gamification

We’ve mentioned running app Zombies, Run! before and we still agree it’s one of the best running apps around - it's now hit over 3 million downloads. Your workout is transformed into literally running for your life, rescuing lost kids and picking up supplies for your zombie-ravaged village. Our own tests aren’t scientific, but we can confirm that it’s much easier to run for 45 minutes using this app than without; you can play your normal music alongside too. It’s genuinely quite fun…download it and tell us what you think! 

The ‘Fun Theory’ was a 2009 Swedish social experiment instigated by ad agency DDB Stockholm for their client Volkswagen. It's well known that we should take the stairs and not the escalator, so they decided to see what happened if they made walking up the stairs more fun. DDB built a staircase that doubled as a fully functioning keyboard next to an escalator at Odenplan subway in Stockholm. The results? There was a 66% increase in people taking the stairs…. 

This is all why the fun, social and gaming aspects are at the heart of the ebove concept. Racing your ghost rider and being able to share, comment, like and compare your results through a social community all create a positive, encouraging and supportive environment. Gamification is at the heart of ebove. We want to make indoor exercise as fun as it can be, and we’ve landed on gamification as one of the best ways to do this. You can learn more about this from the TEDxArendal talk our head of BD Jan-Arild did back in September 2015 here.

We also have the ultimate gamification with our multiplayer function. There’s nothing quite like a race to get you motivated and pushing yourself to your maximum. This is why we also work to include serious exercise tracks alongside experiences that would be impossible in real life; as anyone who has tried the ebove ‘Big Jump’ can confirm.

Where do we go from here?

Technological advances happen daily, and in a few years' time we might all be working out very differently. How we exercise is of course down to personal preference, some of us choose to run outside whatever the weather and setting some simple goals can help to keep us motivated. There’s nothing quite like signing up for a half marathon to get you training a bit harder.

One thing for certain though is that gamification certainly has its place in helping to motivate us to be more active.

The task we face at Activetainment will be to create more and more engaging content. We plan to hold regular online races and challenges and to keep on evolving our online community. We know it’s early days but we’re already working hard on some very cool stuff and we’re pretty confident that our ebove world will inspire people to keep coming back for more!

P.s If there's something you would like to see us work with, or you have an idea for an awesome track then please get in touch!