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In a previous blog article, Fun vs performance, I talked about how Gamification can influence performance and illustrated my point with the formula  “F+E2 = P (Fun plus engagement squared equals performance.) Keep this in mind, because you’ll soon see how it’s once again relevant in our current discussion.

This week I was asked the question, “Can gamification impact a wellness culture?”  Before I get to that, I want to reinforce how important staff wellness is to corporate culture and performance.

Here are a few of the benefits a company wellness program offers from HFR’s (Health Fitness Revolution) list of Top 10 benefits of a workplace wellness program:

  • Improved productivity
  • Lower medical aid costs
  • Stronger team spirit
  • Heightened staff morale
  • Healthy, happy, satisfied workforce
  • Reduced absenteeism and turnover.

Taking this article to heart, I set myself a goal to see if a structured fitness plan would improve my health, happiness, productivity and job satisfaction.

I don’t belong to a ‘wellness program’, so I considered my available resources and set about testing if it’s humanly possible to get fit enough to achieve all of those benefits. I started with a two-week plan.

Week 1: Control diet and achieve exercise balance

I started looking at what kind of food I was eating and how much I was consuming on a daily basis. That was a little tedious. Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, if I didn’t have to check everything I put in my mouth and someone could just tell me what I should or shouldn’t eat every day?

With no dietitian at hand I consulted the android play store and found an app that was compatible with my smartphone. A very clever app that advised me on the calorie count of different foods and how much I was allowed to consume in a day.

Even better, this app was compatible with my smartwatch, which was already set up to track my steps and tell me how many calories I burned in a day.  So by letting my smartwatch exercise app access my food intake the whole diet tracking and recording process became a lot easier.

There’s more. My smartwatch also assessed my sleeping patterns, so my smartphone app now started suggesting an earlier bedtime.  Here I thought I was past those childhood days of being sent to bed and now as an adult I have an app setting my bedtime. Go figure.

And the best part, the app linked to my Facebook profile and put me in contact with friends who are also on the fitness journey. We encouraged each other and celebrated milestone achievements. We could even challenge each other and set up competitions for daily, weekly or monthly trophies.  I was off to a great start, but needed to go further.

Week 2: Get active and have fun

In Week 2 my app prompted me to walk more and control what I ate.  But I still needed to find a way to get more active. I wasn’t ready to make a commitment to a gym membership and wasn’t prepared to go running outside in the cold heart of winter.

I assessed my resources at hand for inspiration. My office building is big and has several staircases. I could easily walk around and climb a few stairs every day. Another idea was the local shopping mall, where I seem to spend a lot of time walking around anyway, thanks to my kids. Neither one of those exercise options seemed challenging enough.

Then I remembered. My kids have a gaming console with Kinect, a camera that tracks movement (if you’re excited by this idea there are cheaper movement camera options with similar features. The wii, for example). And because I’m such a clever Dad, I bought them a few different gaming subscriptions with access to multiple free gaming titles.  A little content search produced a title that assisted with exercise routines ranging from novice to expert levels.

So, confidently prepared with a workable healthy eating plan and revived exercise plan, I started a fresh journey to physical fitness.

The exercise gaming activities started off moderately enough, allowing me to work out on my own and at my own pace. But it wasn’t long before the game unlocked opportunities to verse people all over the world in their workouts.

With no prompting from me, the game scheduled daily challenges and boss fights (versing top performers) and tracked each level I managed to unlock.  What started out as different activities performed once, then twice a week, were now happening every day and becoming a regular ‘way of life’.

And the odd thing was that my family started noticing the spike in my activity level and thought it looked like fun. So pretty soon they started joining my workouts.  In some activities they surpassed me by a lot, while in others I was better than even my teenage kids.

Now I had multiple challengers online and in person to keep me motivated. And on those days when I felt tired and not in the mood to work out, someone in my family would inevitably show up and challenge me to match their workout performance.  I could never refuse.

So after all of this true-life background, let me get to the point of this blog. This week, I was asked if gamification can influence a culture of wellness. The answer is “Yes it can”!

Add a few very simple gamification elements to your wellness program and watch participation increase, health costs decrease, and employee productivity pulse with a new energy.

How simple gamification elements can make a positive impact on wellness.

  1. Set up the rules: Control eating and increase activity level
  2. Track performance: Record daily calorie intake and track calorie-burning activities
  3. Create events, simple missions and challenges: Create opportunities for people to join events, challenges and missions that put endurance to the test. Performance can be measured in calories burned or activities completed.
  4. Scaffolding (leveling-up): Once people have completed basic events, provide new challenges and missions that push them just a little harder to reach the next level of achievement
  5. Allow for social engagement: Give people opportunity to share and compare their performance with others on the same fitness journey
  6. Encourage wide participation: Build an entire community of people who share common wellness goals and challenges. This allows for mutual support and teamwork in pursuit of specific goals.

These are all very simple gamification elements that I used to create my own wellness culture among personal friends and family.  With just a few everyday resources I made dieting and exercise a fun experience, built a community with family and connected with wellness-minded people all over the world.  Plus, I managed to lose some weight and made an all-round improvement in my physical performance.