How Gamification Can Incentivize Healthier Behaviors

While some will argue that fitness has always been gamified – it’s called sport – technology has diversified the gamification element and made the process of getting fit fun. By gamifying behaviors that can in turn lead to increased happiness and improved physical well-being, such technological advances should be applauded.

The gamification of health and fitness, which has mainly emerged through mobile applications, provides users with valuable tools and strategies to stay healthy and focused. Armed with these new solutions, they can cut through the distractions of modern living and achieve their fitness goals.

Modern life is hectic

There’s no getting around it: modern life is hectic, and our attentions are ever more stretched. There are such a multitude of apps, websites and social media networks competing for our attention that it is often difficult to focus on any one task. The alerts, bells, and whistles of messages, e-mails, and push notifications never seem to stop.

Social media platforms in particular provide users with little hits of dopamine and validation every single day. Humans are becoming increasingly conditioned to seek and expect instant gratification for the merest of efforts.

Taking part in healthy activities offers the opposite kind of experience: the hard work comes up front, and there is little to show for it in the here and now – except perhaps the odd gym selfie. For those that have an athletic iron will, that’s not such a big deal. But for the rest of us, the lack of any positive feedback can lead to disillusionment and eventually giving up.

Contemporary fitness solutions

Gamified health apps bridge the gap between physical effort and improved wellbeing with rewards in the here and now. This model is sometimes called “move-to-earn” or FitFi, which stands for fitness finance.

One of the most successful recent examples of this phenomenon is Sweat Economy, a mobile fitness application that pays users in cryptocurrency (SWEAT tokens) to become more active. Sweat Economy lets users reap the benefits of their healthier behavior long before they notice any increase in strength or visible abdominal muscles. In short, physical activity equals SWEAT tokens.

Once earned, these digital tokens can be used to opt into prize draws in the Sweat Wallet app to win Macbooks, iPhones, and fitness and lifestyle products. Users can also donate their SWEAT tokens to noble causes, increasing their sense of social well-being into the bargain.

This model has certainly proved highly effective for Sweat Economy which has amassed over 120 million users. The Sweat Economy app – Sweatcoin – which runs on both Apple iPhone and Android devices, has also become the #1 most downloaded app in 58 countries. That’s a lot of sweat and a lot of coin.

A broad range of possibilities

Being paid to run and move may sound fairly compelling. And in fairness, there are a number of apps with similar offerings. STEPN and Step App are among the alternative move-to-earn applications, each with its own take on this highly successful model.

Several other apps are also working to create something a little different, and more akin to a traditional gaming experience. One such example is Genopets, a Pokemon-inspired game in which users adopt a pet and help it to grow stronger. Owners can battle their pets against the pets of other players, with each Genopet becoming increasingly formidable the more its owner moves.

Players are invited to create a Genopet for free and then level it up through activity and completing daily tasks. Eventually, users can elect to sell or trade their Genopets, potentially at a tidy profit.

Dustland is another move-to-earn app employing traditional gaming elements. The plot revolves around a scorched dystopian landscape populated by scavengers and pirates. The long and short of it is that players must avoid the pirates and complete as many missions as they can. Effectively, Dustland is Mad Max – but on foot!

Making continual progress

Whether users choose to raise battle pets, scarper from scavengers, or more simply move to earn as in Sweat Economy, the basic principles that underpin the fast-moving FitFi sector are the same. All seek to incentivize healthy behaviors, making them more enjoyable (and potentially profitable) for users seeking to get in shape.