We are all always full of good intentions for our health and keep making promises to ourselves like “next week I’ll start jogging” or “in a few days, I’ll start a diet”, but we often lack the motivation to keep these promises.
Turning all these good intentions into action can be accomplished through gaming. In fact, gaming can encourage people to make healthy decisions and reinforce positive behaviour, as it increases motivation and helps people better understand their health.
When taking care of your health becomes a game
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) argues that gaming deserves serious attention in health care. Gaming is an expedient means for learning, as it increases healthy habits by entertaining people instead of just passing on information, and thus motivates learning by making it fun and social.
Gaming also makes physicians’ job somewhat easier in the sense that physicians need to remind patients less about taking their health into their own hands, as they will do it on their own thanks to the entertainment value. This happens because of the reward mechanism coming from the feeling of being successful in a game, as it motivates you to continue and not give up. Another very important aspect of gaming is the fact that it allows health care professionals to educate and engage patients about difficult subjects. As we’ve previously mentioned here on the blog, serious games are also useful in the education of medical students and in the on-going training of health care professionals.
Some examples of how to improve your health and stay in shape through gaming
JAMA see promises in mobile gaming thanks in part to GPS, accelerometers, advanced wireless sensors and mobile hotspots, which could revolutionize healthy gaming through location-based activity tracking, movement monitoring and even vital signs recording.
The most well-known device that combines health and gaming is probably the Nintendo Wii. The gaming console has also been used as a fitness tool since 2008 and has been one of the major factors in the success of health gaming, along with the Xbox 360.
Humana Games develops original and fun video games for all ages including The Horsepower Challenge, designed especially for kids and combines real-world activity with a virtual race around the planet. The game Dancetown is designed to make the public, notably an older audience, more active through dancing.
Zamzee and Switch2health both provide wearable devices accompanied with a social platform where the users can share their achievements with their network and, most importantly, compete with them. When a certain level is achieved, the user is rewarded with a prize such as an iTunes or Best Buy gift card.
The philosophy is that to motivate behaviour change, you need to reward people for their physical activity and allow them to share their progress with their community.
Johnathon Atwood speaks at TEDx Silicon Valley 2011 from TEDx Silicon Valley
Have you ever tried gaming with your health? Has it changed the way you manage your own health?
Photo rights: fitness.com / zamzee.com