Gamify Your Health
A couple months ago I was asked by a colleague to write an editorial on electronic physical activity trackers. We had recently began a long trip and wanted to see if these physical activity tracking devices could work for our children. A year earlier, I started a project with some of my patients using electronic physical activity (PA) trackers. While I used Fitbit activity trackers, other companies have developed electronic PA trackers, including: Garmin, Jawbone, Nike.
We started it with my 7 year old son as a birthday present. He felt that tracking his steps was a game. Since it was working for him, we thought it would be fun for the whole family. Here are a few insights my wife and I have learned as parents of children who have used electronic activity trackers:
- Children are naturally more active than adults. On regular days, my wife and I would need to go out for a run for at least 45 minutes to keep up with the step-count our kids get by playing.
- Kids are naturally competitive. Actually most people are the same. Our children are checking their step-count frequently throughout the day and want to be ahead of their siblings and their parents.
- Through the use of electronic activity, our kids often would have the motivation to be more active so that they could catch up to another family member. Our teenage daughter would just go out for a walk on her own so that she could get more steps in during the day.
- The PA monitors have been a great way to encourage personal connections. Our children have enhanced their intergenerational ties. The children have been able to connect, compete, and cheer on their aunts, uncles, and grandparents through the friendly competition created by setting up a family group. Likewise, it can also encourage physical activity amongst peers. Our eldest daughter’s friend recently set up a challenge amongst four of her friends to see who could be the most active within a 24-hour period.
- Our children described wearing their Fitbit as “fun” because they can earn badges and get positive feedback on the computer. They also reported that the Fitbit encourages them to get more steps so that they can beat other people.
If it works for us, it may work for you. Give it a Try!
To read the whole article please visit the Australasian Medical Journal.