Can games increase the motivation to exercise?


There are a lot of exercise games available for most of the gaming consoles. For example Xbox has the kinect, Playstation has Playstation Move and the Wii is all about movement sensors. These accessories lead to games that need movements (let us not consider finger movement as a movement here) from different parts of the body to interact. They convert lazy gaming to active gaming. This doesn’t say anything about what people like the most, but it gives people the choice about their gaming experience.

In the paper “Using games to increase gaming motivation” from Jeffrey Yim and T.C. Nicholas Graham, a research is done on what motivates people to play these active exercise games and not on how to implement a realistic exercise game. According to the writers of the paper they were one of the first that tried to tie the exercise motivation literature to the design of exercise games. Their research resulted in 6 requirements that a exercise game must have to be able to motivate people to exercise by gaming:

-Integrate music

-Availability of good instructor

-Achievable short and long-term goals

-Hide players’ fitness level

-Avoid lack of peer support

-Actively assist players in forming groups

The writers also say that these are requirements to help address barriers to take part in exercise games and will not guarantee a fun and engaging game.

I think the requirements the writers stated can indeed be motivators to perform exercise games. But this is only applicable to people who somehow have a little motivation to exercise themselves. For these people this bridge can be their way to exercising, but for people who doesn’t have any motivation themselves it will not have any affect. The won’t take the effort to buy and play these games. I also think these games have more effect on children than on adults, because a child may not be aware of the fact that he/she is exercising while an adult probably is.


Yim, J., Nicholas Graham, N., 2007, Using games to increase exercise motivation, FuturePlay, November 15-17, Toronto, Canada


4 thoughts on “Can games increase the motivation to exercise?

  1. I always ask myself the same question about this. Some people buy a Wii and thinks that they are completely healthy thanks to their training with this. This people forget that they also need to sport outside. So I do not completely agree. A Wii doesn’t solve the whole problem but thanks to the Wii people believe that they are health but they aren’t !! That is a very dangerous situation.

    • It’s true that only exercising with something like a Wii is not enough. Sporting outside or in a gym is also important and essential if you want to be healthy. However I think that a Wii is a good bridge between doing totally nothing or doing at least some exercises. People who are not motivated to go to a gym or run outside, are maybe more motivated to buy a Wii and exercise with it. I do agree that people might think that they are healthy, while just playing some games with a Wii is not enough, but I also believe it’s better than doing nothing. So the situation is difficult here, playing exercise games with a Wii is better than just sitting in your couch but it is not enough to be completely healthy. We also have to keep in mind that healthy is maybe to general in this discussion because it is also related to other things like food.

  2. The Wii and the Kinect force a person to move, but it doesn’t force them to exercise, the exercise we do on the Wii should not count as exercising. A better alternative are exertion games, these games force the player to exercise like running. But is playing these kind of games enough exercise?

  3. You are right that playing these kind of games aren’t enough for a daily or weekly recommended amount of exercise. Maybe this is misleading for people. They might think they exercise enough by playing some exercise games, but in reality it isn’t enough. Apart from the part it is somehow misleading, I think that exercising via this kind of games is still better then doing absolutely nothing. And maybe the people who don’t do any kind of exercise are tended to exercise via a Wii or Kinect, even if it’s unconsciously.

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