Turning Everyday Exercise Into Game Is A Way To Work Out More

Theme of study

Exercise everyday is a good way to motivate people to get up and work out more.


Researchers have found that turning everyday exercise into a game is a good way to motivate people to get up and work out more.

The study was conducted at the University of Iowa.


UI faculty and students designed a web-based game that can be played by anyone with a smartphone and a Fitbit.

People who received the game right out of the gates increased their steps by about 2,200 per day, which is close to walking one mile.

The game, called MapTrek, was designed by the Computational Epidemiology Research (CompEpi) Group.

Aim of the research

The research involves developing new approaches to monitor diseases. Recently, that research extended to designing interventions. MapTrek is an example of such an intervention.

How MapTrek works

Users sync data from accelerometers–in the case of this study, Fitbits–with the web-based MapTrek game.

Using Google Maps, MapTrek then moves a virtual avatar along a map in proportion to the number of steps the participant takes.

Participants of the study were grouped together and competed against one another in weekly walking challenges each week.

Using Google’s street view function, users can click and see where they’re at in real time, effectively turning the game into a virtual walk or race through different locations.

MapTrek also sends users text messages each day to remind them to wear their Fitbit and also to provide encouragement. Users also could take part in daily challenges to earn bonus steps.

For the study, 146 participants–sedentary office workers, ages 21-65 who reported sitting at least 75 percent of their workday–were divided into two groups.

Both were given Fitbits, but only one group used their Fitbit along with the MapTrek game. Their activity levels were monitored with the Fitbit’s activity monitor.

The researchers found that the Fitbit and MapTrek group walked 2,092 more steps per day and completed 11 more active minutes per day compared with the Fitbit-only group.

Active minutes are defined as those in which the participant took more than 100 steps.

Focus of the study

If a person can maintain a daily 2,000-step increase, that could result in a clinically significant improvement in their overall health.

It’s associated with about a 10 percent relative reduction in long-term incidence of cardiovascular disease.


The gains in activity declined and the two groups looked similar by the end of the study.

Nearly everyone can benefit from increased levels of activity.

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