Athletic Business Magazine Takes a Look into Gamification and its Role in the Fitness Industry

by Cathi Lamberti SMARTfit

Gamification is taking on a serious role in the fitness industry as its power to engage becomes understood.  This power is being utilized to not only attract participation in exercise programs but to also build retention.  People love to connect socially and have fun and gamification provides a whole new spin on personal and small group training for youth as well as older adults.

In this month issue of Athletic Business, SMARTfit was featured extensively in their article on gamification.  Here are some of the key extracts that pertain to how SMARTfit is redefining our understanding of not only attraction and retention but also performance enhancement for gamers of all ages and abilities:

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As another, advanced example of technology’s fitness integration, gamified fitness equipment can take many forms. Most vendors offer a wall-based product that requires a user to react and respond to a prompt with their body, but the category is broad enough to include such things as regular console based video games that require a player to pedal a recumbent bike in order to use the controller. Gamified fitness can deliver real benefits both to end-users and to a business’ bottom-line.

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Activating kids

Erin Antrim, CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Oxnard and Port Hueneme in California, was sold on the concept of gamified fitness from the moment she saw the kids she serves interact with a SMARTfit system — another wall-type gamified product that challenges users to respond to prompts by tapping on a particular area.

“I just knew that it would be perfect,” Antrim says. “We do a lot of physical fitness here at the Boys & Girls Clubs, but sometimes kids who maybe need it the most, kids who might be a little sedentary, aren’t attracted to those types of activities.”

Antrim worked with a donor to secure a SMARTfit system for each of the 17 clubs she oversees. “Our kids love the systems,” she says. “They ask to use it, they ask to be on it, and the systems are running all hours of operation for us.”

Representing a diverse age range — the Boys & Girls Clubs serve kids between the ages of 5 and 18 years old — individuals use the SMARTfit systems in different ways. While the older set uses it primarily as a means of getting in a workout, younger kids participate in games that can help them in school.

“Yesterday, I observed it with a group of brand new Kindergarteners, and they were counting, looking for the numbers,” says Antrim. “So it goes from that, all the way up to more advanced, and they love it.”

Since introducing SMARTfi t systems in the Boys & Girls Clubs — including a location at a juvenile justice center — Antrim says kids who otherwise might shy away from physical activity are now heading to the gymnasium more frequently, which is particularly important to the community.

“Oxnard and Hueneme specifically have a couple of the highest childhood obesity rates in the state of California,” Antrim says, adding, “We need to really make sure that the learning and the exercise is fun.”

Science-based benefits

Gamified fitness isn’t just about technology and toys. There’s serious science that explains the benefits for end-users by virtue of using both their brains and bodies at the same time. It’s a scientific concept called dual-tasking, which SMARTfi t CEO Cathi Lamberti sums up as, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.”

“When you simultaneously work the cognitive with the motor system, you will accelerate the rewiring of the brain and the body,” she says. SMARTfit’s products are programmed with a variety of games that collect and measure data based on how well the end-user performs at the prescribed task. The programs can be modified to be more or less challenging, depending on the end-user’s baseline results. The technology has been used in contexts ranging from rehabilitation and concussion recovery to the fitness training of professional athletes.

With so many different ways to use it, SMARTfit can be found in a wide array of facilities that cater to the youth and older adult demographics, which together comprise what Lamberti calls the two vulnerable populations.

“The fitness industry is taking care of mainstream fitness — the millennials. They’re doing a great job,” Lamberti says. “But the two populations that are left out are the older adults and the youths. Gamified fitness equipment not only can be an important contributor to physical fitness, but it can also provide additional benefits particular to older generations, specifically by helping to prevent the onset of age-associated cognitive decline."

“We’re all going to age, and we’re all going to have some kind of cognitive decline,” Lamberti says, “but because of massive inactivity and bad food, we’re seeing an acceleration of cognitive decline. This is where the fitness industry has a huge opportunity to help people capture themselves in a decline and bring cognition back up to normal.”

See the full article at: https://www.athleticbusiness.com/images/digitalissues/1019/#1