Remember when your favorite part of the day was recess? Running around the playground with friends didn’t feel like exercise. It was just fun. Somewhere along the way, play time turned into drudgery. It’s time to bring back the fun and gamify exercise!

Gamification makes exercise more enticing than it otherwise might be. Many people avoid exercise because it’s anything but fun. When you gamify exercise, you add a healthy dose of fun back into the mix and reap the benefits of exercise, too.  

Here are four ways to gamify exercise, along with the pros and cons of each. 

Download a mobile app:

Want to run from zombies, become a superhero, or chase that elusive Pokemon? Dozens of mobile apps allow you to immerse yourself in a fantasy world, all while getting more fit. Fitness apps like these are a great way to gamify exercise by incentivizing you with rewards, badges, and opportunities to level up the more you play and the better (or should we say fitter?) you get. 

Pros: Stimulates the mind with imaginative play. Incentivizes you to engage more regularly. Interactive engagement with other users.

Cons:  May get bored with the game. Might not appeal to some users. May not result in a long-term exercise habit.

Use an activity tracker:

Whether tracking steps with a Fitbit or closing rings on an iPhone or Apple Watch, activity trackers remind you to move more consistently throughout your day, which is a proven way to improve your overall health. Since this wearable device is always with you, you naturally gamify exercise. You compete against yourself as you work to keep daily exercise streaks alive through every day movements.   

Pros:  Many trackers nudge you to move when you’ve been inactive for too long. Raises the bar on your performance as you meet certain levels. Tracks your progress. Builds consistency. 

Cons:  Can cheat the system by simulating movement. Can lead to guilt when you don’t meet your daily goal. 

Start a friends & family challenge 

Accountability is one of the best known motivators for building a new habit and a great way to gamify exercise. Inviting your friends, family, or coworkers to move alongside you creates a collaborative, or competitive, arena of fun. You can divide into teams to conquer the stairs, steps, or scale together. Or you might set up a one-on-one partnership to meet daily exercise targets. Don’t forget to celebrate milestones along the way by rewarding yourself and your teammates for meeting their goals!     

Pros: Accountability of others to reach your fitness goals. Start and end date to short-term challenges may encourage more to participate. Can reset new goals as time goes on. 

Cons: Short-term challenges don’t always lead to long-term habits. Some do not like to compete or won’t participate out of fear of failure. Creates a “win” or “lose” scenario.  

Turn to Gaming: 

The Wii was a front runner in this arena and the concept has expanded ever since. Whether you want to dance, punch, or immerse yourself in the world of VR, game makers have learned to gamify exercise. Turning sedentary gaming into active movement is a win for those who enjoy their screen time. Active video games are also a great option to add to the common room of your workplace for some quick fun with your co-workers. 

Pros: Uses a familiar platform to increase daily movement. Immersive technology allows the user to “get lost” in a fun world.

Cons: May be expensive to add new games and accessories. Some games do require full engagement to be an effective workout. Not all options are full body workouts. 

If you struggle to make exercise a habit, gamification may be the solution for you. It’s time to add some fun back into your daily routine!