When fitness trackers alone fail to get families moving enough, turning step counts into a competition might help people get more exercise, a small experiment suggests.
Researchers gave fitness trackers to 200 adults and asked them to set daily step count goals to increase their activity levels. All had at least one other family member participating in the experiment, and half of the families were randomly chosen for a team competition with prizes tied to achieving daily and weekly step goals.
Winning the game required all participants in the family to reach their target number of daily steps. That’s because the team score each day was based on one person, and participants never knew on any given day which individual in their household would be selected to have their exercise counted.
During the 12-week gaming period, competitors in the competition hit their daily step goals more often than the control group of participants who weren’t in the game, the study found.
Gamers also increased their daily activity levels by about 1,700 steps, or roughly one mile, more than twice the gains achieved by people who weren’t part of the competition.
“The game was designed to help families work together toward their goals,” said lead study author Dr. Mitesh Patel, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and director of the Penn Medicine Nudge Unit.Read more at Reuters, MedCityNews, LifeScience, US News & World Report, Men’s Fitness, the Daily Mail, and ScienceCodex.