“Since then, I’ve been fascinated by the intersection of gaming, brain health, behavior, and fitness,” says Glatt, who is now director of the FitBrain Program at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute. While we don’t have much clear evidence about the neural mechanism of physical exertion, we hypothesize that it can act on reward pathways in the brain and engage regions responsible for goal-directed behavior, such as the frontal lobes, while increasing levels of neurotransmitters associated with reward and arousal, such as dopamine and cortisol.” .
Glatt isn’t the only one who’s found success with gamification fitness. The Virtual Reality (VR) Fitness Industry is Steadily Booming – Global Virtual Reality Fitness Games Market was valued at $111 Million in 2022 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 39.8 percent from 2023 to 2029 according to a market report HTF. Virtual fitness isn’t just about hopping on a peloton bike or following a guided workout on an app—fitness can mean queuing up to work out on a virtual reality headset, something that attracts a broader network of people who might not resonate with other exercise formats.
Virtual reality is just one of the newer popular examples of fitness games, btw, but it’s far from the only one. Fitness video games like Ring Fit on the Nintendo Switch and the Zwift app, which turns at-home workouts into a game, are more than two.
What is exergaming exactly?
According to Glatt, true fitness motivation (aka exergaming) means that the exercise should provide some type of score or point system and have a goal-oriented outcome that, in general, helps drive motivation during your physical activity. In addition to this extrinsic focus on the goal, the individual can have what’s called an “improved expectation,” meaning he expects he can improve, outperform his past performance, or achieve a specific goal.
My sister is a nurse who works the night shift at the hospital and has a hard time squeezing exercises into her busy schedule. When I got my Meta Quest 2 VR headset, I discovered Supernatural VR Fitness, which offers music-driven boxing and dance workouts.
“It made me look forward to working out because it’s at home and fits into my schedule,” she says. “You get immersed in great scenery from around the world, the music is good, and you get to choose what you want to listen to.” My sister also notes that the coaches in the game are especially positive and motivating, which is much needed after working 12 or more hours on a hospital shift.
The benefits of fitness by games on your mind and body
It takes time to see the gains when it comes to exercise, and that can make it difficult to get motivated to exercise, according to Haley Perls, PhD, an expert in sport and performance psychology. “When we exercise all at once, there is no immediate physical benefit that we can measure,” she says, “and when the reward is not immediate, it is difficult to associate the movement and form a good habit.” Gratification through a daily reward system that helps to do [working out] Usually fun.”
A 2022 study published in International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology It looked at a small group of 55 people who had no less than the 150 minutes of weekly exercise recommended by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) in the Physical Activity Guidelines for American Adults. Some participants were assigned to group exercise classes, and others were assigned to exercise. Although the class participants worked harder than the exercisers, the study found that the experimenters reported having more fun. And since enjoyment is one of the primary goals of exercise, according to the FITTE principle that trainers use to program workouts, the results, though a small study, suggest the potential for exercise to be an alternative form of physical activity for those who don’t exercise. You don’t enjoy going to the gym or traditional exercise classes.
Laura Flynn Endres is a personal trainer who created an online fitness game, Get Fit Done, because she says it’s been difficult to keep her clients motivated week after week. “The best fitness program has a lot of repetition, and the first few weeks of a new program are the hardest. Playing in it provides a fun distraction, improves compliance, and peer pressure is done right,” she says. The online fitness game, in which members earn points for their team by achieving certain goals, also creates a team dynamic that Endres says helps many people who don’t want to let others down. She adds, “Overall, accountability is much more important than we realize. Again, you will show up more consistently to others than you will to yourself.”
Glatt adds that using games for fitness offers unique health benefits in addition to helping you be more consistent with your workouts. “The physical exercise literature, mostly on older adults, shows that physical exertion has the potential to improve cognition, brain function, mood, and physical performance,” Glatt says, though he adds that unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of clear evidence about how it works. Brain physical exertion.
Are there downsides to gaming fitness?
Gaming fitness may seem like all fun and games, but some criticize its potential downsides, including the risk of becoming overly competitive or also Data driven. As with any type of fitness tracking, it’s possible to develop an unhealthy relationship with your devices.
Normally with exergaming you have a quantitative component – eg, tracking steps, calories, miles, etc. A 2016 journal article found that quantifying activity reduces enjoyment, and may cause people to become disengaged or less motivated as a result.
“There are always those who are manic by nature,” says Dr. Perls. “This can be done with a simple wristwatch, a stopwatch, or simply by someone counting the reps. If someone realizes they are focusing on numbers and rewards, they may want to speak with a trainer or psychologist.” If they engage too much in gamification.”
Even with these potential downsides, exercise is creating a new field for exercise and engaging people who haven’t wanted to exercise before – and getting more people to exercise while having fun is no small feat. All in all, with handrails and self-awareness, fitness gamification has the potential to improve the exercise experience for those who lack motivation to exercise. As such, it may be a good pre-workout for those who aren’t already active because it offers a higher level of participation than training on your own—with lower overhead costs than hiring a personal trainer or joining a gym or studio, Dr. Perls points out. “Gamification technology makes fitness customizable, personalized, private and motivating,” she says.
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