The Christmas break is well and truly over... All of the bad holiday habits are behind us and New Year's Resolutions are underway, let’s take a look at some of the best gamified fitness apps out there that can help you achieve those new year fitness goals.
Having fitness apps and accompanying technology in your presence, serves to encourage you to take the stairs instead of the lift or escalator. Through the use of game mechanics, such as scoring, competition and personal challenges, the gamification of your physical activity helps motivate you to formulate healthy habits and desired behaviours.
Here is a list of fitness apps in 2020 that best utilise gamification elements to help you stay motivated along with a breakdown as to why they’re so effective.
This app is a strong example to kick-off this list of fitness apps that utilise gamification elements.
For those of you that enjoy grinding out video game campaigns to gain character experience and reach that next level, this app has tapped right into such game mechanics.
It is almost as if you become a World of Warcraft character that you level up with your recorded workouts. Fitocracy’s goal is to put its users in a position of improvement by completing tasks and earning experience so they can level up in real life.
The app offers a host of workout routines and expert advice, along with a robust community of like-minded individuals to keep you motivated.
With over 1,300 exercises along with demos showing how you should do them, this free app is perfect for both tracking your progress and also interacting with others who have the same fitness goals.
Jefit taps into the social aspect of gamification. Encouraging people to share their progress and compete with others within the apps’ community. It is easier for us to lose motivation when we are working out alone. Jefit counteracts this problem by allowing you to connect socially with friends, family, and people who have the same health goals as you do. They can encourage you to keep going, you can challenge them to reach fitness targets, and it increases your personal accountability for your good health.
There is also a pro version that offers access to a greater range of functions.
Nike+ Run Club
One of the most well rounded apps on this list. In collaboration with Headspace, this app looks to take care of not just your physical health but your mental health also.
The app is always monitoring your fitness level and adjusting your goals, milestones and metrics in order to progress to a greater level of fitness and achievement. This self-adjusting difficulty is an example of the challenge game mechanic, this helps keep people engaged in their fitness progress.
Just when participants may feel like they have mastered all that there is to master, when plateauing is imminent, the bar is moved in order to have users strive for the next goal.
Overcoming these challenges will make people feel they have earned their achievement.
Nike’s app keeps individuals on their toes with strategically placed challenges meaning the longevity of participant attention goes further than if it were simply left in the hands of the originally outlined goals. Gamification is all about user engagement and challenges are a way of making the process less robotic, forcing individuals to get off autopilot and actually get involved in what they’re doing.
Couch to 5K
Couch-to-5K has a very self-explanatory title. Designed to gently ease couch potatoes, casual runners and joggers into running 5K courses over time. Users get a training course of 20 to 30 minutes, three times a week over nine weeks. You can choose from four virtual coaches, complete with accompanying audio cues to help motivate you on the run, with automatic or manual logging for easily keeping track of your progress.
Social features which provoke peer pressure have been actively used in the best gamified fitness apps. People need support from peers and are more likely to enjoy training with a friend than alone. This is a feature that Couch-to-5K does quite well, providing community support and notifications of 5K races near you.
In addition to being a top-notch running and cycling tracker, Strava Running and Cycling adds some pretty neat competitive and gamified features to the usual run-tracking recipe. The app records your running speed, distance traveled, time and course taken, but also combines it with leaderboards, achievements and challenges. Strava supports a variety of running trackers, in addition to Android Wear and Apple Watch. A premium subscription improves on the formula with filtered leaderboards, the ability to create exercise goals and view more detailed analytics and more.
The app has one of the biggest communities of fitness enthusiasts out there on a virtual platform, and has a tonne of useful features that makes it one of the best apps of its kind. Complete with a competition feature that lets users log the fastest time on a route to beat other fitness enthusiasts who've previously ran on it. The app has both a free and paid tier, with the latter offering in-depth performance analytics.
Strava is known for a vast number of badges and challenges. The service also motivates people to share their experiences and compare their results quite intensely. Merch items with the phrase “If it isn’t on Strava, it didn’t happen” play to the human need for attention and the visualisation of progress.
Strava’s talent for engaging people in fitness, which one community member called self-gamification, pushes users to compete with their own previous results. Another game-like aspect, unique to Strava, is the ability to use maps of completed runs and cycles in creative ways.
Fitbit has managed to be one of the longest-staying fitness apps on the market, due to its ability to update and strengthen its functionality. Currently boasting step counters, calorie-burn calculations, heart rate monitoring, and more.
Fitbit manages to gamify fitness with its use of leaderboards that are usually full of friends and loved ones due to the brand's popularity and Facebook connectivity. Odds are you already know several people who have the app installed. Games are always better when played with your friends. This is why Fitbit allows users to set-up groups and to chat and compete with Fitbit equipped friends and family. Always ensure where possible that any gamification supports social groups and interactions.
Sometimes game mechanics aren’t enough to motivate people into physical activity, sometimes you need to provide a more immersive experience to distract users from the fact that they’re exercising.
That is precisely what Zombies, Run! does, providing an audible post-apocalyptic survival experience that simulates the sensation of a zombie horde chasing you while you’re jogging. Scripted radio transmissions are intermingled with your regular music collection that build upon the Zombies, Run! story and random zombie events will trigger during your route, forcing you to run faster or lose in-app points. It's intermittent exercising in a whole new way.
The experience created by storytelling techniques serves to prompt users to push themselves beyond their usual speeds and run distances as users do not wish to “lose supplies” from pursuing zombies. The use of the gamification principle “Loss Aversion” really does force users to run faster when they otherwise would have thought they were too tired.
As you can see, many fitness apps implement some kind of gamification to make exercise more pleasurable and the app’s services more immersive. The exergame genre exploits the power of storytelling and cross-platform innovations which capture user movements, are among the first early steps of what we call gamification in fitness.
It seems that gamified fitness is only just starting to hit it’s stride!