What do exercisers desire when they work out? While the answer may vary greatly from person to person, some common themes emerge: they are looking to get a good sweat going, to challenge themselves to beat their previous workout’s progress and get one step closer to their fitness goal, or to have a fun time with their friends while burning calories.
These themes generally tend to overlap with the notion of gamification. At a basic level, gamification is the process of applying gaming mechanics to non-game situations. The goal is to use a data-driven approach to promote engagement and motivation among users. Read on as we take a closer look into the benefits of gamification, how it is active in the fitness industry, and how your facility can incorporate it.
Benefits of Gamification
When gamification is present in a fitness experience, it creates a fun, challenging environment for participants. Exercisers can sometimes feel “transported” from reality into an alternate world where they have to accomplish certain milestones and keep striving to do their best.
As with most games, fitness experiences that are gamified tend to be addicting, in that exercisers are eager to get back to the experience so they can beat the next challenge. This can result in increased member loyalty and member retention as members head back to the gym to achieve their next goal.
When applied to a group setting, gamification also creates a competitive but strong community feel that is very sought-after. Many gym-goers are seeking a tribal-like, closely knit community that offers support, friendship, and friendly rivalry.
Gamification in the Fitness Industry
Think back to your first experiences with fitness as a child. It probably involved playing a team sport or participating in gym class, where you played games with your friends to achieve a common goal or establish a winner.
Things aren’t so different when children grow up. As adults, we often seek experiences that bring back that fun, competitive spirit we enjoyed when we were young. Luckily, advances in technology have allowed games to be integrated into many aspects of day-to-day life, with gamification being very prevalent in the fitness industry. Consider these examples:
- Indoor Cycling Classes: New generations of indoor cycling bikes, such as the Spinner® Chrono™ Power, are built with the ability to measure a rider’s personal performance in watts, displaying a variety of stats throughout the workout. These bikes have the capability to connect to a leaderboard, allowing performance stats from participating bikes to show up in front of the class. This means that riders can compete against each other and themselves, bringing a fun gamification factor to your facility’s indoor cycling programming.
- Networked Cardio Equipment: Preva®, the networked fitness solution from Precor, offers exercisers an easy way to track their fitness progress any time they log in to a networked Precor cardio console or use the Preva app to log their workouts. Preva was designed with gamification science to present exercisers with badges for completing workouts – they receive more badges in the beginning of their fitness journey to keep them motivated and inspired early on, eager to return to the gym to earn more badges.
- Wearable fitness technology: Many exercisers use fitness trackers such as Fitbit®, Suunto®, or Garmin® to keep an eye on their physical performance and general health. These wearables, when integrated with heart rate technology, are ideal for use in a gamified environment. Benefits include the ability to analyze individuals’ fitness levels; personalize training to match their fitness ability; build relationships among members and trainers; and create a fun and competitive environment.
- Fitness-based apps: Take a look around in any environment, and you’ll observe the strong presence of mobile phones. While some may question the prominence that this type of technology plays in our day-to-day lives, it is hard to argue that mobile phones work against fitness when we consider apps like:
- Zombies, Run! This app guides you through audio adventures while you’re running, and encourages you to run faster so you can escape the zombies that are chasing you.
- Pokémon Go. This is a great way to get some walking in while acquiring more characters and increasing your game score. You’ll also get to explore new sites around your city, and meet new people while gaming.
- Charity Miles. A spin on gamification, this app allows users to earn money per mile that they run or bike, which then gets donated to a charity of their choice. The dollar value incentivizes exercisers to go further so that they can make a bigger donation.
Implementing Gamification in Your Facility
How can you incorporate gamification into your facility? Here are some ideas to get you started:
Do Your Research
Between you and your staff, try out some of the fitness experiences mentioned above so you can take notes about what you can realistically achieve in your facility. Don’t be afraid to try gamification experiences outside your comfort zone, as they can still help shape your outlook on gamification and the kinds of things that may interest your members.
Contact Fitness Experts
Work with fitness equipment providers to see what they offer in terms of creating competitive training environments that work gaming into the experience. From networked fitness consoles to group training classes where statistics are being tracked, there are many options to include tech-savvy gamification into your facility.
Engage Your Staff
You’ll also want to engage your staff to make sure that they are fully on board with the gamifying approach and that they embrace it with their interactions with clients and members. The support of your staff can help build excitement about new opportunities for gamified experiences in your facility. Staff are great at creating some friendly rivalry and competition among each other and clients, too.
See what you and your staff can come up with in terms of holding contests or highlighting milestones. It’s not always necessary to have fancy technology behind your gamifying approach – just think of ways that will encourage high engagement and participation in your facility, and ensure that you can measure and track a person’s performance so they can beat their previous records. Some ideas include celebrating: who has lost the most weight by percentage during a boot camp, who has attended the most workout sessions consecutively, or who has maintained the highest heart rate during a Spinning® class.
Host a Scavenger Hunt
Design a scavenger hunt around your facility or outside at a nearby park. At each station, participants must perform a specific set of exercisers in order to get a clue to find the next station. When they have completed the scavenger hunt successfully, they can win a prize such as a free personal training session or gift certificate to the gym’s store. At a relatively low cost to you, exercisers will build memories and enjoy competing against each other to win.
Set Up an Obstacle Course
If you have empty studio space or a functional training unit with many stations, create an obstacle course that pushes your competitive clients. Challenge participants to a pre-determined list of exercises that test the entire body: arms and shoulders, core strength, and legs. Add in high-intensity cardio for a truly powerful experience. Whoever finishes fastest is the winner!
Most of all, you’ll want to make sure that your gamification experiences are fun for your members, reasonable and attainable, and include opportunities to reward or acknowledge a job well done.