Maybe years of video gaming has warped my brain a little, but I’ve always thought that it would be more fun if I was able to receive the kind of awards that I get from playing games in my everyday life. How cool would it be to advance in levels, stomp on mushrooms for points, or grab coins from midair when you’re on the way to the store? Really, even if I just heard a distinct melody after making a good decision in my life, that would be good enough for me.
Luckily, there are a lot of products linked to health and fitness that work just like video games do, and some of them even come with monetary incentives. Need that extra bit of motivation to stay in shape or reach a health goal? Use these tools and gamify your health.
1. FitBit Flex (and other fitness-tracking bracelets)
Judging by the tan line on my wrist, I’m pretty dedicated to my FitBit Flex. Launched in May and purchased as a slightly belated birthday gift, this little bracelet has been my key to a ton of fitness and activity information.
The FitBit Flex, like many other fitness bracelets that are popular lately, tracks your daily steps, calories burned, total hours and minutes slept (and restless/awake), and also helps you record the food you ate, the type of exercises you did, and anything else you’d like to record for your own archiving and insight. Say you want to cut down on your soda intake or you’re trying to quit smoking – you can record how many cans you drank or cigarettes you smoked.
Other cool features include being able to set alarms and goals. A vibrating alarm can help ease you into the morning or can serve as a reminder for something you need to do during the day. You also set a daily goal with FitBit. Currently my goal is to take 12,000 steps each day. With a couple quick taps I can see a light flash for every 20% of my goal I’ve accomplished thus far, and when I hit 100% it vibrates and lights up. It’s like a party on your wrist and every time I get it I celebrate.
I have friends who use the Jawbone Up and have said they enjoy similar features. As far as I’ve read in reviews, these brands are the best you can get for fitness and activity tracking, but obviously I’m a little biased in the FitBit direction. Here’s why I decided to buy the flex: It’s $30 cheaper, it can be put in different colored wristbands for easy accessorizing, and it can be put in your pocket if you don’t want to wear the bracelet but still want to track your activity. It also syncs wirelessly so you don’t have to remove it to update your data like you have to with the Jawbone Up.
If you have a bracelet that you enjoy using, add it to the comments. I love to talk about peoples’ favorite brands.
2. Xbox 360 Kinect Fitness Games
I recently bought Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2012 for Xbox 360, and I have no idea why I waited so long to get it. If you have a Kinect and are looking for motivation to work out, I highly recommend a video game like this. Not only can you do several type of workouts without having to change a DVD or flip around on Hulu or YouTube, but you can also see yourself in the game via the Kinect camera and are given points based on form and execution of the various workout moves. Plus, there are routines that feel more like you’re playing a video game than working out, but come with the benefits of any other exercise.
With Your Shape, you can set an objective (like “Lose the Muffin Top”) and it will recommend workouts for you to do and the time you should spend each week on them to achieve your goal. You also can earn badges for completing workouts and increase in levels in the game based on the number of calories you burn.
Even outside of this fitness game or ones like Zumba or The Biggest Loser, most Kinect games come with a health benefit. Instead of sitting on your couch and stomping mushrooms, you’re forced to stand up, jump around, run in place, or punch and kick things in a lot of different video games. Most Kinects come with the Adventure! game which has been a great way for me to get moving on days when I feel too lazy to jump into a full-fledged workout…at first.
This is one of my favorite kick-in-the-pants programs. I even wrote quite a few posts about the program a couple months back: check here, here, and here for more details. (Oh, also here.) DietBet is great because you run the risk of losing money if you don’t follow through with your weight loss goal, and all humans are naturally averse to risk. Generally the pot contribution is around $25 and anyone who loses 4% of their body weight in 28 days splits the pot with the other winners. I’ve done this four times and have walked away a winner every time. The reason I like it so much is it’s a healthy amount of weight to lose and you can’t do any fad diets to keep it up because you have to keep it up over the course of a month. Consistency and moderate adjustments are your keys to winning these bets.
I’ve actually become an assistant coach for DietBet and may be starting up another competition soon, so if you’re interested, make sure you email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Friends and strangers alike, anyone can participate in a DietBet.
This is another great tool if you’re looking for a monetary incentive to stay healthy. The GymPact app, available for both iPhones and Androids, keeps you true to your word to your workout goals.
For example, say you’re committing to 3 workouts per week and decide that you’ll pay $5 for every workout you miss. You check in at the gym, or begin tracking a run/walk using RunKeeper, or use their new GymPact Anywhere app available for Apple devices, and work out for at least 30 minutes. Hit your weekly goals and you’ll get money from the people that failed to work out during the week, which adds up to about $0.30 – $0.40 per instance.
I have yet to try GymPact, since they just started rolling out compatibility with Android and RunKeeper, but since I walk my dog most days, I’ll be testing it out this week. Look for an update on my satisfaction with GymPact in another blog post.
Noom is a program I used obsessively before I had a FitBit. Fans of Weight Watchers or games that involve “levels” will like Noom. They have products that are available as apps for iPhones or Androids and come in free or paid versions.
In its most basic sense, Noom is a food tracker that allows you to categorize the foods you eat into red, yellow, and green, and is based on the glycemic index of food – basically, how much the sugar in the food would raise your insulin levels. Green foods are fruits, vegetables, and high-fiber or whole-wheat foods. Yellow foods are low-fat milks or milk substitutes, white flour products, and lean meats. Red foods include certain fats, candies, high-fat meats or milk products, and other junk foods. Track your food based on the approximate amount you eat and what category it falls under and it breaks it out based on calories from each category.
Noom also provides mini-challenges and readings about different health topics each day. The paid version comes with more tips and challenges, but even when I was using that, I saw a lot of repeats, so the free version should suffice for anyone except for people who are really serious about losing weight and want to make this program a large priority in their life.
Phew, such a large list of tools and there are so many more out there. What do you use to gamify your health? Share in the comments below!