Competition may motivate people to walk more

Research we're watching

Published: December, 2019

Counting steps with a fitness tracker doesn't always inspire people to be more active. But a little friendly competition may help, a new study suggests.

The study, published online Sept. 9 by JAMA Internal Medicine, included about 600 overweight or obese adults, all of whom received wearable step trackers and set goals to increase their daily steps. Researchers randomly divided them into four groups. The control group had only their goals and the step trackers; the three other groups also had different elements of games (support, collaboration, or competition) tied to their goals, an approach known as "gamification."

After six months, all of the gamification groups showed significantly greater gains in their average daily step counts compared with the control group. During the following three months (in which all participants continued with step tracking and goals, but without any gamification), the average step counts dropped in all groups, but activity levels remained higher in the competition group than in the control group. The average person in the competition group walked about 100 miles more than the average person in the control group over the nine-month study, according to the researchers. They plan future studies to see whether demographic, personality, and other characteristics can predict the best gamification strategy for different individuals.

Image: SDI Productions/Getty Images

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