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The Effects of mHealth-Based Gamification Interventions on Participation in Physical Activity: Systematic Review
Journal Contribution - Review Article
Background: It is well known that regular physical exercise has associated benefits; yet, participation remains suboptimal. Mobile health (mHealth) has become an indispensable medium to deliver behavior change interventions, and there is a growing interest in the gamification apps in mHealth to promote physical activity (PA) participation. Gamification could use game design elements (such as points, leaderboards, and progress bars), and it has the potential to increase motivation for PA and engagement. However, mHealth-based gamification interventions are still emerging, and little is known about the application status and efficacy of such interventions. Objective: This systematic review aims to investigate gamification apps in mHealth for improving PA levels and simultaneously summarize the impact of gamification interventions on PA participation. Methods: We searched PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, Embase, CINAHL (EBSCO host), and IEEE Xplore from inception to December 20, 2020. Original empirical research exploring the effects of gamification interventions on PA participation was included. The papers described at least one outcome regarding exercise or PA participation, which could be subjective self-report or objective indicator measurement. Of note, we excluded studies about serious games or full-fledged games. Results: Of 2944 studies identified from the database search, 50 (1.69%) were included, and the information was synthesized. The review revealed that gamification of PA had been applied to various population groups and broadly distributed among young people but less distributed among older adults and patients with a disease. Most of the studies (30/50, 60%) combined gamification with wearable devices to improve PA behavior change, and 50% (25/50) of the studies used theories or principles for designing gamified PA interventions. The most frequently used game elements were goal-setting, followed by progress bars, rewards, points, and feedback. This review demonstrated that gamification interventions could increase PA participation; however, the results were mixed, and modest changes were attained, which could be attributed to the heterogeneity across studies. Conclusions: Overall, this study provides an overview of the existing empirical research in PA gamification interventions and provides evidence for the efficacy of gamification in enhancing PA participation. High-quality empirical studies are needed in the future to assess the efficacy of a combination of gamification and wearable activity devices to promote PA, and further exploration is needed to investigate the optimal implementation of these features of game elements and theories to enhance PA participation.
Journal: JMIR mhealth and uhealth
Keywords:mobile health, gamification, physical activity, systematic review, mobile phone