Exergames and Gamification - Fun and Games in Fitness

Jan 17, 2022 - 5 min read
How can gamification make fitness more fun?

Exergames and gamification have been steadily gaining popularity in fitness—not only through the explosive rise in at-home fitness but also through the immense evolution in technology. It is however, not an entirely new phenomenon: in 2008 Nintendo launched Wii Fit , a fitness game offering yoga, aerobics and strength training.

Accessible, affordable, and multifunctional, it became the 3rd best-selling game worldwide for the console. Arguably, the next big wave of exergames came in the form of Pokemon GO - a mobile app utilizing augmented reality and GPS to get the players outside to catch and train critters through walking. Now your game is going with you wherever you go!

The internet is rife with stories about how people use video games for their workouts, and how gamification keeps their motivation up. The question is: how you put the fun in fitness with gamification and exergames, and how can you utilize the meteoric rise of video games for comprehensive and personalized workout plans?

Effects of Exergames and Gamification on Fitness

Before we dive in, let’s take a look at how exergaming can help you and your business. One of the biggest struggles in the fitness industry is retention : customers start off with all the energy in the world, but fall off the radar when they get into a funk with their progress.

There are many strategies and tactics that can be implemented to curb churn and keep retention rates up: from personal training to gym buddies to community-based motivation and accountability. But have ever considered making fitness fun? Inherent motivation keeps longer and stronger when people truly enjoy what they are doing.

And it’s exactly what gamification does: it adds game-based elements such as scores, badges, music in an immersive fitness experience. Moreover, it adds short-term goals to each exercise. Improving your personal best on a 5k becomes a lot more exciting while you try to outrun a pack of zombies , and a dance lesson feels more impactful when you unlock the next level .

The grind, scoreboards, and level up!

Games might seem like the antithesis of fitness, but there are many things we can learn from it. Video games have perfected the addictive elements through competition and short and long-term goals. Leveling up, seeing your abilities and strength improve in clear-looking charts, prizes, and competition—it’s these small hits of dopamine that keep you coming back for more.

Fitness is mostly focused on long-term goals: changing your body doesn’t happen overnight, after all. Gamification doesn’t change that, but it can make the grind feel a whole lot easier.

Putting Fun in Fitness with Exergames

So how can you add techniques and elements from video games in your fitness offering? In this section, we will take a look at different strategies and technologies you can use to keep your retention numbers up, no matter the circumstance.

1. Challenges

The more, the merrier! It’s hard to see your own progress, and changes to your body take a while. But taking on a challenge with peers and seeing effort translated onto scoreboards will keep your customers motivated for longer: taking on a direct challenge gives your customers something concrete to work towards.

Moreover, you can assign your clients personalized short term goals that fit into their long term ambitions. And this doesn’t have to take place in a group class setting. Utilize wearables and our challenges and rewards software to get a healthy competition going between your customers!

It’s easily customizable for all levels. By challenging your customers with a daily step goal, or overall weekly active hours or calories burned. Getting healthy doesn’t have to be a drag, so make it fun, engaging and motivating to do!

2. Rewards

Leveling up, unlocking a new map, getting that one rare items… it’s the tried and true mechanic that makes games so moreish: the satisfaction of getting rewards. If you really want to motivate your customers to take part in challenges, and get engaged with your community, consider offering a range of rewards!

With Virtuagym you can offer different digital rewards like medals and badges. But do consider real life rewards too! A free item of your merchandise, a gift card for sports nutrition, a free session with a personal trainer, or a discount coupon for a wellness treatment—the possibilities are endless.

3. Progress Tracking & Personal Profiles

With your club community, your customers and trainers can make their own personal profile to track their progress, share results and successes and keep in touch. Keeping an eye on a progress bar, goals hit, no scale victories, but also a place to store and show off digital rewards, is a form of gamification that fits seamlessly with fitness goals.

Having a visualization of how much your health and strength improved, and how much closer you are to your ultimate goal, is incredibly valuable. Not only for your customer: sometimes it’s hard to see how far you’ve come—but also for trainers: they track their customers’ progress precisely and personalize and optimize their training plans.

4. Social Shares & Community

Sharing successes, or getting a shout-out from your trainer, are amazing ways to keep engagement  and motivation high. Celebrate success together in your own online community !

Being motivated to work out extends beyond the gym. For most people, it’s getting ready to go that the hardest part of working out! With an active and engaged community, your customer can stay in touch with peers and their trainer. Seeing other people’s success, getting recognition for their own victories and praising others will help your customers to stay motivated.

New Fit Tech for Exergames in Your Gym

With the fast digitization of the fitness industry, there are more and more new ways to implement exergaming and gamification in your hybrid business model . Wearables offer new possibilities in further gamifying fitness. Tracking steps, sleep, and heart rate are all elements that can be gamified.

Heart rate trackers especially are a great example of this: they can be worn as watches or as a chest strap, and track live data about the exercise.

Consider adding a competition element to your group lessons with a live score board measuring things like heart rate—it’s an immediate incentive for your customer’s to give it their all every lesson!

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Nan de Bruin

Content Marketing Team Lead

Visual storyteller and winter sports enthusiast with 15 years of writing experience in English, Dutch, and Czech. Currently doing reps as the Content Marketing Team Lead at Virtuagym.