Three ways to "gamify" your workouts to exercise more, get fit and live longer

Treating your workouts like a game is one of the best ways to convince yourself to do more exercise, according to science

Women doing push-ups to "gamify" their workouts
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It's often very difficult to find motivation to work out all the time. If you're feeling a little lethargic, or you have a busy schedule ahead of you, exercising is often the first thing to be abandoned for a later date. While willpower and discipline can keep you lacing up your running shoes or hitting the gym time after time, the best way to keep you working out is to make exercise fun. 

"Gamifying" your exercise, turning it into a game or fun competition, is a great way to get active. The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine looked at type-2 diabetes patients that undertook exercise programmes which made a game out of hitting their daily step count, and found these programmes increased how much exercise they did in comparison to "normal" exercise programmes. 

The study's lead author, Mitesh Patel, MD said: "We found that gamification worked best to increase activity levels when it was designed using behavioral insights to encourage either competition with others or support from a family member or friend. 

This is encouraging and suggests that these interventions could be an effective way to build a lasting, new exercise habit for this population."

Whether you're trying to find how to start running or you're looking to try the best exercises for weight loss, here are three ways to gamify your workouts to get active more often. 

Gamify your workouts: Partner up

A study conducted by the European Society of Cardiology found exercising with a partner has absolutely tons of benefits. The study, which monitors patients who had previously had heart attacks attempting to lose weight over the course of a year, found the participants who exercised with a friend or loved one were 100% more likely to lose lots of weight.

They don't even have to be physically present: having an accountability partner and challenging them to do more steps than you over the course of a week, for example, can create a great game out of a very accessible form of exercise – walking to lose weight. There's nothing wrong with a little friendly competition.

Ring Fit Adventure

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Gamify your workouts: Use technology

Fitness games are a great way to support your workouts. Ring Fit Adventure for the Nintendo Switch, for example, is an inspired way to get fit. The game comes with a tension apparatus, the Ring-Con, and a story-based RPG. Strapping one part f the controller around your leg and another to the Ring-Con, you can pull it like a chest expander to fire arrows from a bow, or jog on the spot to move your character forward.

Of course, if you're comparing metrics like steps and calories burned with a workout partner, or trying to beat your previous fastest running time, a fitness tracker or smartwatch can record a whole smorgasbord of metrics. It'll tell you the quality of your sleep to your fastest 5K time, and how many calories you burned along the way. The more information you have about the workouts, the better. Check out our guide to the best fitness watch if you don't have one already. 

Gamify your workouts: Try a sport

Want to get competitive as well as getting active? Join a local sports club! It's the simplest, most straightforward way to do it, whether you opt for a five-a-side local non-competitive soccer team or you get serious about a niche sport, like rowing, or fencing.

You'll get all the benefits of working out with partners and teams, you'll be often playing to win, and you'll be learning something new, which enhances your motor skills and even improves your brain. Research suggests new neural pathways are created when we learn new long-term skills, allowing you to get smart about getting fitter. 

Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.