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Gamifying Exercise

Trend description:

Video games and at-home workout apps have both risen during the pandemic and post-pandemic. Consumers are starting to move away from seeing exercising for aesthetic purposes and are beginning to exercise for both mental and physical benefits. Therefore, new possibilities that blend the fun of gaming with physical activities present new opportunities to target Gen Z.


Trend drivers

With the pandemic decreasing consumers' activity levels and motivation for working out, consumers are looking for a way to make fitness fun and a social experience. Consumers are turning to exercise to lift their mood and for a quick escape from the stressful and unstable world.


The lines between fitness, games, music and entertainment are being blurred, opening opportunities for new entrants to the market or current fitness operators. Fitness has started to become a gamified, fun, challenging, and competitive experience. Gamifying fitness apps have gained much attention in recent years among Gen Z. 


Industry leaders seem to agree: fitness gamification isn't going anywhere. The Welltodo 2022 Consumer Wellness Trends Report noted, "With 86% of Gen Z saying that their passions have diversified even more since the start of the pandemic, it's time for fitness brands to stop thinking about fitness as a siloed offering but instead an entertainment lateral . A place where the intersections, the crossovers, the spaces and places where entertainment – in its fullest sense – can come alive for a whole new generation." Studies have found that some significant barriers to not working out were the lack of enjoyment and motivation. A 2022 study published in Plos One investigating barriers of exercising, found that the most common ones were disliking exercise and no motivation.

According to Deliottie's recent Digital media trends study, roughly three in 10 Gen Z teens (27%) say gaming is their favorite entertainment activity, compared with 21% of Gen Z adults with many young gamers reporting that they are reaping social and emotional benefits from gaming, too. The study found that 87% of Generation Z said they play video games on devices such as smartphones, gaming consoles, or computers at least weekly. Most Gen Z respondents said that during the pandemic, video games helped them stay connected to other people and get through difficult times.

Therefore, companies need to think creatively about how they can blend physical activity with gaming to engage the digital-native generation in a post-pandemic world.

Gamifying Fitness Apps

Gamifying Fitness Apps challenge the standard fitness routine and present a new innovative way of working out, which is appealing to younger customers. According to Grand View Research, the global fitness app market size was valued at USD 1.1 billion in 2021 and is expected to expand at a CAGR of 17.6% from 2022 to 2030. 

The concept behind move to earn is gaining popularity: users earn rewards in the digital world for moving around and doing exercise in the physical world. Users are rewarded with in-game tokens when they walk or run using the GPS on their smartphone.

In 2012, the mobile fitness gaming app Zombies-Run was launched. The app is a running app featuring role play and audiobooks to create an immersive experience for its users. The app launched "The Home Front" during the pandemic, keeping people active at home by doing push-ups and other home exercises to escape the zombies. The only way to keep the story going is to keep running.

Running stories is an audio-attainment platform that turns running routes into immersive stories. The app turns running routes into an immersive story using live-time data. The object you pass, and your surroundings will take part in the story to create an immersive experience. By using Augmented Audio, the app is succoring real-life time data to create a designed personalized story for the user. The app uses the user's location, running speed, and weather to customize the story and deliver the story that fits the environment most.


Picture: Running Stories

Social Fitness

COVID-19 has changed consumer behavior, and at-home solutions are here to stay. Virtual workouts boomed during the pandemic and are still sticking around. When going to the gym wasn't an option, consumers started exploring virtual workouts from the comfort of their homes, shaping consumer preferences and attitudes. 

Consumers are starting to move away from seeing exercising for aesthetic purposes and are beginning to exercise for both mental and physical benefits. According to a study conducted by -- across all age groups from 18-74, 77% are motivated to exercise to improve their mental health, with almost 40% of Gen Z being more motivated since the lockdown.

According to a McKinsey Study, Gen Z reported more unmet social needs than any other generation during the pandemic. Fifty-eight percent of Gen Z reported two or more unmet social needs, compared with 16 percent of people from older generations. When fitness apps are applied to a group setting, they can provide a strong sense of community feeling, which is very sought after by Gen Z.

The company Obé is trying to create a social element to home on-demand fitness. This is done through online workout parties, where users can invite up to seven friends to a live workout session, with the opportunity to video chat afterwards. ISLANDbé has up to 20 daily live classes and over 7000 on-demand workout videos. The founders want to inspire people to workout through a festive, fun 80s-inspired workout.


Picture: Obé

Move-to-Earn web3

We are entering a new area of fitness, where exercisers can feel transported into another world, where they have to accomplish specific goals that keep them motivated. Move-to-Earn apps that reward users in crypto put a new twist on an old concept. This is a new web3 economic model that allows users to earn crypto rewards by participating in fitness and sports-based activities. Move-to-Earn rewarding users in cryptocurrencies is one of the fastest-growing fitness concepts.


Gamifying fitness experiences can be addictive, such as most other games. However, this can encourage consumers to strive to do their best to overcome a particular challenge. This can result in increased member loyalty and member retention. Move-to-Earn influences the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation by linking the exercise to a chemical response.

Sweatcoins is an app that tracks your exercise routine and awards users with Sweatcoins if they exercise. The app is a crypto-currency-based platform and therefore rewards its users in Sweatcoins. The Sweatcoins can be used for various in-game rewards and for purchasing gift cards. The app has exploded in popularity within the UK due to being an easy way to get paid to exercise.


Picture: Sweatcoins

Action Steps






Consider how the move-to-earn concept, where adding reward points or winning competitions through a workout, could increase member loyalty and retention.

Consider how an at-home workout experience can offer users a close community feeling and boost social wellness.

Consider how to make exercise an immersive experience that blends physical and digital experiences by adding sound elements, stories, or visuals to immerse customers into a new world.

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