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Gamifying Fitness: Spice Up Your Workouts!

By: Holly Smith, M.D. - Osteopathic Medicine, B.S. - Dietetics, NASM-PES Certified Trainer,

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

gamifying fitness

Looking to spice up your workouts and/or get out of an exercise rut? Level up your workouts by gamifying fitness!

No matter how much you enjoy working out, the monotony of doing the same activities day in and day out can leave you feeling unmotivated after a while.

Staying committed to your fitness and health can be a challenge at times, especially when you feel like you’ve hit a plateau.

By gamifying fitness, you can find that extra motivation when you get bored grinding out the same old routines.

And you don’t need a fancy Peloton bike or expensive subscriptions to services or programs you may never use or even look at.

With some free apps or your own creative games, you can create killer workouts that will break you out of your fitness rut and get you back on the path to a healthier you.

Ready to start gamifying fitness? Keep reading!

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What Is Gamifying?

I’m sure you have seen exercise gaming consoles, like Nintendo Wii, that turn sedentary video games into physical fitness activities.

But what if you remove the screen and apply the same principles to every day exercise?

This is what gamifying fitness does, without the need to buy any expensive electronics.

Gamifying fitness means you can do any number of different physical fitness activities that you tailor to your goals and interests.

And, there is evidence that shows how gamifying can actually increase your level of fitness and physical activity.

In a 2017 study from JAMA Internal Medicine, fitness trackers were used to track the activity of participants.

One group was involved in gamifying, where they earned points through different activities, while the other half did not participate in point-scoring activities.

The adults who gamified their workouts had significantly greater physical activity and increased their step count compared to the control group.

Gamifying Fitness to Get Out of a Workout Rut

When you gamify your workouts this leads to somewhat of a distraction where you don’t even feel like you are exercising.

Making your workouts more enjoyable is a motivating factor that will actually have you looking forward to exercising.

Gamifying your workouts not only will motivate you to start exercising, but it will also keep you engaged during your workouts and keep you accountable to reach your workout goals.

When you gamify your fitness, not only can you set short term goals for each workout, but his tactic also will help you reach your long term health goals.

According to the CDC, only about 23% of U.S. adults  meet the recommended guidelines for muscle-strengthening and aerobic exercises.

However, turning your workouts into a fun game experience can actually help you reach these goals.

For example, a 2018 study from the Journal of the American Heart Association found that sedentary office workers increased their physical activity when they used a mobile health gamifying platform called MapTrek.

In this study, all participants were able to track their steps with a FitBit.

However, the study participants that competed in walking challenges on MapTrek walked more step and were more active than those that wore a FitBit without the game.

Apps for Gamifying Fitness

One way to start gamifying fitness is to try out some of the great gaming apps that you can download right to your phone.

If you are unsure of how to make your workouts more fun and intriguing, this is one of the best ways to start.

Some top apps for gamifying your workouts are:

Zombies Run

This is one of the most popular gaming apps out there, and for good reason.

There’s nothing like having a zombie chase you to get you moving!

Zombie’s run starts with a story about you in a post apocalyptic world. It then combines audio cues and music to keep you moving.

Just plug in your headphones to hear your mission as you walk or run anywhere in the world.

When you are chased by zombies you will need to speed up, and will collect supplies along the way the build your base.

You can even create interval training with your own missions.

The Walk

If you would rather get your physical activity in by walking rather than running, The Walk is the app for you.

The concept for this is similar to Zombie’s Run, however, you walk to achieve the goals in this game.


As you exercise, this workout tracker keeps track of your points, allowing you to level up, complete bonus quests and earn badges by reaching your goals.

Fitocracy also has its own community where you can join a fitness social network and encourage others on the same skill level as yourself.

There is also the option for a paid account where you can pick a coach who will send you a customized nutrition and workout plan made specifically for you.

With a paid account you will receive daily accountability and personalized guidance from your coach to make sure you're on track and get help from your coach any time you need it.


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Gamifying Fitness On Your Own

While apps are one way to gamify your workouts, you can also create your own incentives and competitions to turn your fitness into a fun activity and not something to dread.

Track Steps Or Distance With Friends

An easy solution to staying accountable to your daily steps is to recruit family or friends to get in on the action.

Start by setting daily goals for either steps or distance traveled.

You can use a pedometer to track your daily steps and monitor each other through free apps like Strava or MyFitnessPal.

If you are already more active, you can do more than just monitor steps.

Avid bikers or runners can challenge each other to ride or run a certain distance over a week.

You can even have awards at the end to keep everyone motivated.

For example, whoever wins gets to choose a fun activity for the weekend.

Or, on the flipside, the person with the lowest amount of activity buys lunch.

Having others to push you can help you stick with a program when you hit plateaus and lose motivation.

Little motivations like this can help keep you moving, especially when you know others are tracking your workouts too.

Create Gym Competitions

By the way, these games don’t just have to revolve around cardio activities.

You can incorporate these friendly challenges into weight training, intervals, and plyometric exercises too.

For example, you can try some of these challenges below to gamify your resistance workouts:

HIIT Challenge

You can challenge your friends to some high intensity interval workouts.

Choose a set of exercises and then try to knock out as many reps as possible in a set amount of time.

These workouts are an awesome way to build strength and aerobic stamina.

Examples of HIIT challenges could include exercises like burpees, pull ups, or kettlebell swings.

Start out with one minute on the timer and try to bust out as many reps as you can before your time is up.

Rest, and then repeat with a different exercise.

You can tally up your scores at the end of your workout to find out who achieved the most reps.

You could also try to best each other in timed exercises like wall sits or planks.

See who can hold each isometric exercise for the longest time-with proper form of course!

Roll the Dice

Bring a pair of dice with you to the gym or wherever you choose to work out.

Work through the exercise below, and for each move, roll the dice twice and add the numbers to determine how many reps you will do for each exercise.

Then repeat the circuit three times.

  • Burpees
  • Lunges
  • Push-Ups
  • Squats (Body Weight or Dumbbell)
  • Ab Wheel Roll Outs

Deck of Cards Workout

Another fun way to spice up your workouts is to use a deck of cards to determine what exercises you will be doing.

The way it works is that you assign an exercise to each suit.

The number on the card will determine how many reps of that exercise you perform.

To make things even more interesting, designate the face cards to be special plyometric moves that you perform for 30 seconds each.

For example, your workout could look something like this:

  • Spades: Squats
  • Hearts: Push-ups
  • Clubs: Lunges
  • Diamonds: Lat Pull Downs

So if you draw a 10 of diamonds, you would do 10 pull ups, and then move on to the next card.

For the face cards, try to incorporate plyometric moves to get your heart rate up.

Perform each move for 30 seconds, trying to do as many reps as possible.

  • Jacks: Box Jumps
  • Queens: Mountain Climbers
  • Kings: Switch Lunges
  • Aces: Burpees

These are just examples and you can choose any moves you like depending on your specific workout goals for the day.

Once you have figured out your exercises, the goal is to get through the deck of cards as fast as possible.

Just shuffle them, draw from the top, and get going!

Jumping from one exercise to the next will keep you guessing while you are getting an awesome full body workout.

This workout takes HIIT to a whole new level and gets you out of the monotony of your every day exercise.

Remember to take rest breaks as needed, but try not to let your heart rate drop too much.

Holly Smith

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

Holly is an osteopathic physician, runner, triathlete, and fitness and nutrition enthusiast.

She is board certified in nephrology and internal medicine, has a bachelors degree in dietetics and is a certified personal trainer with NASM-PES certification.

Holly has completed four full ironmans, twelve marathons, countless half ironmans, olympic distance triathlons, half marathons and numerous other road races.

Holly joined the Fit Father Project in May 2019 as a regular writer, contributing articles on health, wellness, exercise, and nutrition.

She has also recently qualified for the 2020 World Championships for Ironman 70.3, in New Zealand!

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*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on gamifying fitness.

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