By Dr. Ayla Donlin, Special AFS Contributor

The term gamification has become more popular throughout the fitness industry in the past several years.  The popularity of this term makes sense because wearable fitness trackers, designed to promote the gamification of fitness, were the number one fitness trend in both 2016 and 2017 according to the ACSM Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends.

Gamification is defined as “the process of adding games or gamelike elements to something (such as a task) so as to encourage participation.”  Wearable fitness trackers provide elements of gamification to fitness in order to encourage exercise participation and adherence.

As is the case with all tools and toys, one must use wearable fitness trackers in the right way to maximize the benefits and as a bonus, it provides a boost to your bottom line!  The “right way” to use wearables probably varies from device to device and person to person; however, one of the most important steps is to identify how you are best motivated and then use the device accordingly.

We have outlined three tips around maximizing gamification with wearable fitness trackers to get you started.

Tip #1: Set Goals & Objectives with Rewards

Most wearables have a built-in goal setting system and provide metrics so that you can track your progress.  For example, I know MYZONE uses Efforts Points (or MEPs) that reward effort based on the intensity and duration of the user’s workout.  Users set monthly MEPs goals and can track their progress along the way.  As they accumulate MEPs points, they move up in status, a reward based on consistency over time.

Identify the different types of goals and objectives that you could set and track with your wearable and then set up your own reward system along the way (even if there is already a built-in reward system).  If you meet your MEPs goal, or your calorie burn goal, or your steps goal, reward yourself with something meaningful so that you are incentivized to stick with your exercise routine.  An example would be to reward yourself with some new workout clothes if you meet your goal(s) for the month.

Be as specific as possible with your goals and objectives, and be equally specific with your reward(s).  Set both short and long-term goals and objectives because we maintain motivation longer if we see ourselves meeting short-term goals along the way.

Tip #2:  Look Beyond the Numbers

Most wearables provide an amazing amount of data.  Whereas having specific numbers available to get feedback and track progress can be incredibly motivating, it can also be overwhelming.

Occasionally, it is good to unplug from the numbers and check in with more subjective (feeling-based) data.  How did that workout make you feel – energized, strong, alive?  Better yet, use your subjective data in combination with the objective data provided by your wearable to determine which types of workouts your body and mind enjoy the most.  Research demonstrates that we are more likely to persist in an exercise routine if we enjoy the experience of our workouts.


Tip #3:  Create Community

Playing games by ourselves can be fun, but it usually more rewarding if we share the experience with others.  Many wearables, via an App or website, provide the ability to connect with other users in the exercise community.

Ask other users what features of the wearable are serving them best, or ask them how they are getting the most out of their workouts by using their wearable.  If you see folks in your community (be it a physical or virtual community) doing the types of workouts you want to be doing or hitting the kinds of numbers you want to be hitting, reach out and connect with them.  There is power in community, and community provides the type of accountability many of us need to stay consistent.

One opportunity that exists is called "Social Connections" in the MYZONE App and the MYZONE Moves website.  It allows you to view, like, and comment on other social connections’ workouts.  Users can also invite one another into challenges such as who can earn the most MEPs points in a certain period.

These are just three tips to get you started on maximizing the gamification capabilities of your wearable fitness tracker.  Take some time to get clear on what motivates you most and then use your wearable accordingly – make it work for you!


Dr. Ayla Donlin is the director of the LifeFit Center @ The Beach, a health and fitness facility and educational laboratory on the campus of Long Beach State University (LBSU).  Ayla’s passions are fitness, education, and well-being, and as a result, she holds multiple positions within higher education and the fitness industry.

Ayla is a lecturer in the kinesiology department at LBSU and has been teaching courses since 2008 in the fitness and sport studies options.  She is also the chair of the Exercise is Medicine on Campus (EIMOC) Leadership Team at LBSU and advises the EIMOC student organization.

Ayla has been active in the fitness industry for over 12 years as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, group fitness director, master trainer, and health club general manager. She is currently an American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) certified personal trainer and an Exercise is Medicine® credentialed fitness professional. 

Ayla also serves as a consultant within the fitness industry.  She has been working with Johnny G. since 2007 as a Master Instructor for Krankcycle® and became a Master Instructor for IN-TRINITY® in 2015.  Ayla is also a Master Trainer for MYZONE®, a wearable physical activity tracker that rewards effort.  She creates educational content for the MYZONE® blog, Podcast, and learning management system.

As a passion and hobby, Ayla has organized, led, and participated in over 100 hours of Spin-a-thon/Krank-a-thon fundraisers benefitting various organizations like the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

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