Source: www.fitbit.com 

Source: www.fitbit.com 


Today I earned my Skydiver badge. No aircraft were involved, and neither were any awkward questions about why a gentleman in his thirties had joined the Cub Scouts.

What was involved was my Christmas present from my wife - a Fitbit. Although slightly skeptical as to how much difference this little gadget would make, very quickly it became clear that it was having a positive effect. Soon I found myself deliberately taking the dog for another walk just so I could hit my 10,000 steps for the day, or quickly checking my heart rate whilst watching a horror film.

It has had a subtle, yet significant effect on my road back to some form of fitness. It has kept me engaged, where as before I probably would have surrendered quickly, retreated to the sofa and crawled under a blanket of hamburgers. And it is the little things which are keeping me engaged, like these badges.

My Skydiver badge came hot on the heels of my Ferris Wheel and Penguin March badges, and I must say that although it is reward enough just to know I have climbed the equivalent of 75 floors and matched the distance your average emperor penguin makes to reach their breeding ground, getting a little badge does make the accomplishment just that little bit sweeter.

But why? They aren't even real badges. Why would receiving an email, albeit a very cutely-designed HTML one, have the same effect on me as a piece of cheese has on my miniature schnauzer? Have I been a good boy? Well I guess I must have been, I've got the badges to prove it.

Now I understand the reasoning behind the gamification of fitness. After spending too many years of abusing my body with takeaways and labouring under the delusion that it would take little more than a few games of 5 a side to snap my swelling mid-section back into the same shape it was when I was 16, the reality hits home that exercising in your thirties isn't fun anymore. At least not to begin with.

skydiver badge.PNG

So that's where the badges come in. They attempt to take the sting out of what we all know instantly after nearly throwing up or passing out 10 minutes into our gym induction - this is going to be really hard! More than that, these new apps and programs can actually present far more appealing alternatives. 

If you would rather switch on your X-Box or Wii Fit and spend 45 minutes dancing to your favourite hits from the 90's, you can. Our brains associate having fun with being rewarded, and that's where gamification comes in. Traditional exercise appears to many of us to be all work with very little reward. We know the goal is to ultimately be fitter and more healthy, but it is so easy for us to become discouraged when we don't see an instant impact.

That's why the marriage of gamification and fitness works so well. You receive your reward quickly, and although it may not appear to be much, it is something.

Lifehacker explains the psychology of gamification, noting that the rewards system is tied to chemicals in the human brain. 

The basic premise is simple: your body releases dopamine when you experience pleasure. This pleasure includes all kinds of things, including rewards. Dopamine is your brain’s version of a carrot. The more goals you achieve, the more dopamine it releases, and the easier it is to stay motivated. Gamification tries to tap into this by offering you rewards for the completion of small goals.

By lighting up the pleasure centre of your brain, reaching your gamified goals can actually feel as amazing as nailing a high score in a video game.

So that's how it works in fitness, but how can it work in business?

Save the date for Tuesday 15th March @ Guildford Library, and keep an eye on the Digital Surrey twitter page for full details coming soon.

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