Can Gamification Increase Exercise Participation?

Aug 21st, 20177:40 pmElaine Smalling

Can Gamification Increase Exercise Participation?
by Christopher Piemonte, Fitness and Wellness Specialist


Gamification can be simply defined as adding game elements to non-game activities. This can come in a variety of ways such as adding points, progressions, or even just competition to an activity. Inserting any or all of these elements to something like exercise can go a long way when it comes to increasing participation.

There are examples of gamification all over the place, and some are ones you may not even realize such, as a 5k race. Participating in a 5K adds an element of competition, whether it be against oneself or others. Even something as simple as trying to beat your bench press personal record is an example of gamification. It’s all around us.

While these examples are on the simpler side of gamification, it can certainly be complex. Programs like Nerdfitness take gamification to a whole new extreme by using technology to turn exercise into a game with characters, points, levels, battles, and a whole lot more.

How can gamification help you reach your fitness goals?

Goal Progression

Gamification can have a significant impact on fitness by boosting goal progression for exercisers. For starters, gamification can inspire noticeable levels of improvement. Your weight doesn’t always decrease linearly when exercising, which can be disheartening, but point increases can be linear. If you focus on something like points, you’re less likely to get caught up in the naturally slow and fluctuating process of weight loss.

Justifying Effort

Have you ever wanted to know why you were doing something before diving head-first into it? If so, you’re not alone; many of us like to understand the reason behind a task before starting. The intricacies of why a burpee is beneficial to our health can be difficult to grasp, but understanding why you want to get from Level 1 to Level 2 is something anyone can understand.


Another helpful way gamification can keep you on track with your exercise program is through accountability. It’s a whole lot easier to miss a workout if your plan is to just walk on a treadmill for 30 minutes versus trying to get your furthest distance on a treadmill in 30 minutes.

Put simply, gamification gives you another reason to show up. When it’s early in the morning or the end of a long day, any extra motivators should always be welcomed.


People will surprise themselves with what they can accomplish when they’re trying to pass or just hang with someone else. The best part is, with gamification you don’t have to compete against someone, you can compete against your own score. Would anyone ever prepare themselves to run 26.2 miles if there wasn’t a reason for it? Probably not, but each year millions of people do it for competition. Any bit of competition can be enough to make us do some crazy things, so why not try and make it something beneficial?

How can you implement gamification into your fitness routine?

One of the easiest ways to implement gamification is to simply establish a milestone. For example, we started a Career Miles Log at one of our client fitness centers. Members just log the number of miles they run each time they visit and once they hit 50 miles, they get a t-shirt. It doesn’t sound like much, but it gives participants an additional reward and purpose to increase their distance.

Another simple idea we have going at our fitness centers is a Gym Records board. This allows members to participate against each other to see who can achieve the most weight lifted, miles ran, push-ups completed, etc. Again, it gives participants a reason to try to improve themselves and (most importantly) a reason to keep coming back.

Programs that feature elements of gamification can be as simple as the examples above or as complex as Nerdfitness; and that’s the best part – a little creativity allows for endless possibilities.

Corporate Fitness Works