Gamifying Exercise: Why It’s Good For Your Bottom Line

4 min read
Thursday, 28 April 2016

We intuitively understand the simple fact that if an activity is fun, we’re more likely to do it. This is something we as trainers preach all the time–we advise our clients to choose modes of exercise that they enjoy doing, we add some exercises to our programs that we consider “fun,” and some of us even create incentive programs for our clients to reward them in appealing ways.

All of this boils down to exercise adherence–if our clients enjoy exercise, they’re more likely to keep coming back–which, coincidentally, is vital to our bottom line.

You may remember a 2009 video called, “Piano Staircase,” which demonstrated how 66% more people chose to climb a staircase rather than use an escalator when the staircase was designed like a musical piano, compared to when it was not. Make an activity entertaining, and we might just get people moving.


We like fun.

In a recent blog post, MYZONE President Emmett Williams broke down the cycle of “Trigger, Action, Reward”. He taught us that in order to create the urge to exercise, we must provide an immediate reward to ourselves or our clients to trigger dopamine release in the brain.

This is where the MYZONE exercise heart rate monitor comes into play. Each time our clients open their MYZONE Workout Summary, or see their name at the top of the leaderboard in a challenge, or earn more tickets in the 2016 Global Challenge, they get an instant reward–a little hit of the “feel good” neurotransmitter dopamine. Eventually, our clients look forward to the immediate rewards provided by the MYZONE system. Exercise becomes fun and our clients want to keep training.

This is part of the phenomena of the gamification of exercise. With the continued release of dopamine every time our clients work out, exercise turns into a game–something that our clients want to do.

How else can we gamify workouts for our clients? Here are some tips to help:


Incorporate the MYZONE Heart Rate Monitor into Workouts.

If your client has purchased a MYZONE heart rate monitor, use it! You can use the feedback on their MYZONE Watch, the Effort Stream on the MYZONE app, or the live display used by your club on a TV, computer or projector. This can work well for individual training clients and for participants in a group fitness class.

Set goals for your clients’ exercise intensity (% of maximum heart rate) throughout the workout and provide positive reinforcement when they achieve these goals. At the end of each workout, let your clients know what they did well by using the feedback provided by their MYZONE belt. If part of the workout didn’t go as well as planned, tell your clients how you will work together to set new goals for the exercise intensity of the next session. If you have time, you can even go over their Workout Summary or Activity Calendar together.


Use MYZONE Challenges with Your Clients.

In a previous post, we gave tips on how to maximize client engagement with MYZONE Challenges. The friendly competition and social component of a Challenge can boost client motivation and get members talking about your workouts!

You can even get creative with how you reward your clients for success in a MYZONE Challenge. We’ve seen eye-catching leaderboards on display in fitness facilities and some awesome prizes awarded to winners (individuals and teams).


Turn Workouts into Games.

Remember how excited you used to be to play on the playground at recess or to navigate through an obstacle course at a carnival? Though we probably didn’t realize it at the time, we got in a good amount of physical activity when we played childhood games!

Adults can still enjoy the fun of games, so why not incorporate some into our workouts? Benefits to using games are that they often require little-to-no equipment, they can be performed in multiple planes of motion, they are fairly easy to modify or progress, and they can be relatively high in their intensity. Plus, they possess a novel quality that boosts our clients’ enjoyment of them.

Below is a brief list of ideas to try. Note that many of these can be modified for individual training clients, small group training, or group fitness classes:

Jump rope

Leap frog

Hop scotch

Hula hoop

Musical chairs (how about exercises instead of chairs?!)

Four square

Relay races

If you want to really go for it, you can even create a scavenger hunt or obstacle course that requires your clients to perform physical activity! Use your clients’ MYZONE belt to monitor intensity and/or provide intensity parameters throughout. For example, you could encourage your clients to use the hula hoop as recovery in the blue zone and then use hopscotch to get into the green or yellow zones.

We hope this post has given you some ideas on how to use MYZONE to gamify your workouts and keep your clients coming back for more! We want to see how you infuse your training with fun - post (and have your clients post) to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using the hashtags #MYZONE, #myzonemoves, and #effortrewarded.

For more tips on how to use MYZONE when training your clients, follow us on our Fitness Friday Periscope Broadcast every Friday at 11 am EST, 8 am PST.

Keep Moving Forward!

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