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You might not think that gaming and fitness go hand-in-hand. People who frequently play video games are often stereotyped as “lazy” or unmotivated. But thanks to advancements in technology, gaming has become more active and fitness-driven than ever.
There are so many benefits of play for adults, including stress relief, improved brain function, and improved social skills. Plus, playing often gets you moving!
Between video games specifically designed to increase exercise to mobile apps that get you outside, the link between gaming and fitness is stronger than you might think. Let’s look at some of those intersections and how you can take part in the gamification of fitness to reach your health goals.
The Rise of Geocaching
Geocaching is still a relatively new activity, first introduced in the year 2000. The word “geo” is used to describe geography around the planet, while “cache,” a French word introduced in 1797, refers to a hiding place used to temporarily keep items. When Geocaching first began, it was limited to those who were already familiar with GPS technology. Now, 20 years after its launch, it’s a fun activity for kids and adults alike that can make you feel like a real treasure hunter! There are even games specifically dedicated to Geocaching, designed to get kids out of the house and into nature.
There are currently over 3 million geocaches hidden around the world. All you need is a GPS device and one of the apps or websites dedicated to the geocaches. It can also help to bring ‘hunting’ supplies with you, like a small trowel or shovel, a container for your finds, and a metal detector to help you locate geocaches underneath brush, trees, etc.
It doesn’t take long to get really invested in this treasure-hunting hobby, which allows you to spend more time outside hiking and walking through different types of terrain. You can even get really creative and use a drone to take pictures or video of the GPS locations you’re looking for, making the spots easier to find from a distance.
How Virtual Worlds Encourage Real Movement
The Pokemon Go app was released on July 6, 2016, and was an instant hit for fans of the original game and even those who had never been introduced to Pokemon before. The app uses virtual reality technology to put Pokemon characters into the real world through the screen of your smartphone, allowing you to “catch” them in different locations.
While the technology used in the game was revolutionary at the time and made for a great source of entertainment, Pokemon Go had some unexpected benefits for users, too. One study found that over a period of 30 days, active users of the game added about 1,473 steps a day to their typical routine — just by “hunting” characters! The great thing about that is that Pokemon Go and other virtual world games appeal to everyone — not just those who are already into health and fitness and may already wear fitness trackers or use health-related apps.
Of course, there are drawbacks to location-based games like these. They need to keep the attention of users and keep adding fresh content to stay relevant. In the case of Pokemon Go, the drop in usage is significant. In September 2016, there were over 500 million Pokemon Go downloads worldwide. Since those first few weeks after its launch, it’s continued to have a core following but hasn’t garnered the same interest.
Though Pokemon Go is undoubtedly the most popular virtual world app to launch thus far, these types of apps and programs are being used for a variety of health and wellness issues, including healthcare education and simulation.
The Gamification of Fitness
The term “gamification” is often used in the business sector or by marketers. It adds incentive to buying certain products or completing certain tasks by offering various rewards. Loyalty programs are a great example of gamification in business. If you sign up for one and you get a discount or “reward” after spending a certain amount of money, that business is using the idea of gamification to influence your buying habits.
In the world of fitness, the basic idea is no different. That’s one of the reasons why health apps have become increasingly popular. As of 2018, there were almost 320,000 fitness and health apps available for users to download.
Most health apps specialize in things like:
Offering workout routines
Monitoring heart rate
If you have a fitness goal in mind, chances are there’s an app that can help you to reach it. These apps are instantly-accessible, give you real-time information, and can hold you accountable no matter what health goals you’re trying to achieve.
Many of them also use the gamification technique to keep you motivated, such as the “Couch to 5K” app that creates a running program for you designed to help you work your way up toward running a 5K. It tracks your progress each day, offers different running distances each day, and offers an end goal that’s the ultimate reward of satisfaction.
Technology and gaming don’t always have to coincide with sitting on the couch, eating greasy snacks. It’s time to change the way we think about gaming and fitness, and utilize more of the resources that can make staying in shape fun for everyone.