“Want to increase your daily steps? Get competitive.
A new study followed 602 overweight or obese adults using fitness trackers and found those who entered a competition game to boost their daily steps had the highest increase in physical activity when compared to groups with no, or different, rewards.
“We compared whether competition, collaboration or support worked the best. People exposed to competition added 920 steps a day to their activity levels compared to the control group, while the collaboration and support groups only added 600 steps,” said Dr. Mitesh Patel, who directs the Penn Medicine Nudge Unit, the world’s first behavioral design team embedded within a health system.
The team’s goal is to use behavioral economics to design ways to improve individual health behaviors like physical activity, health loss and the like.
Not only did the group who competed against others do more steps, they continued to do so for three months after the game ended (as part of the research followup), doing more than 600 steps a day over the additional three months.
“Over the course of nine months, the people in the competition group walked about a hundred miles more than the people in the control group,” Patel said.
In fact, the controls and groups who used collaboration, like an exercise buddy, or support from family or friends saw their activity levels drop back after the game ended.
“This is the largest gamification trial ever done to my knowledge,” Patel said. “It studied people from 40 different US states over nine months. I think it has the potential to have a huge impact.”
The study was published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.”