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Gamification of Health and Wellness – A Next Step for Physical Education

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As an educator and a person who struggles with regular physical fitness, I’m excited about the current rise of gamification of physical fitness, mental well-being, and overall self improvement. For me personally, I am bored by a lot of physical fitness and wellness activities, and struggle to find activities and routines that continue to motivate me. I also see this in many students. Physical Education is often antiquated, with little emphasis giving to engagement and relevance, not to mention personalization and self-motivation. Yes, the overall objective of physical education is to human beings who take care of their bodies and remain healthy, but for some students, getting them to that point may take a variety of instructional strategies.

Jane McGonigal, guru of gaming has recently released SuperBetter, a game committed to helping people reach personalized health goals. What is truly unique about this gamification of health and wellness, is is variety of goals. Participants can pick from a variety of goals including regular workouts to injury recovery. The game leverages and builds personal resilience through normal gamification methods, but allows the user to customize the ends and even the means. Participants can utilize power packs of quests or create their own, and even gain allies. I can see this being used in the Physical Education Classroom, to increase motivation for students to participant. In Physical Education, failure is often view publicly, which can sometimes lead to students losing motivation, depending on the climate of the classroom. With Superbetter, students could be given options to fail and given further motivation to continue their quests towards health and wellness, and provided a personalize option.

There are a couple more targeted games that have been released that also leverage gamification to engage people in physical fitness. Zombies, Run! is a new game, with app for the smart phone, that turns running into quests, collection of items, and building of fortress to protect participants from zombies. As a kickstarter project, it has yet to be fully released, but will be this spring. When participants run, stories are narrated, punctuated by personal music playlists, item collection, and random sprinting to avoid zombies. As running is a regular part of Physical Education, this game could provide and interesting way to engage students in regular cardiovascular workouts. Fitocracy is also garnering attention as a way gamification can increase exercise goals. Participants work in teams and in a community on exercise goals, with easy documentation of workouts and instant motivation and feedback to improve. A class could use this platform to reinforce not only exercise and fitness, but teamwork and collaboration on these goals.

Physical Educators can leverage gamification as a viable option to engage the non-engaged in the classroom. Teachers can align quest achievements and quests to physical education content standards. They can also couple lessons with other traditional forms of assessment. As these games are often collaborative, teamwork can be fostered as well as health and wellness.

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