Social networks have been demonstrated to influence our health behaviors. However, the best way to design interventions to enhance incentives within social networks to improve healthy behaviors is unknown. Moreover, methods to predict which types of interventions will work with which types of patients have not been well examined.
We partnered with Deloitte Consulting, a large employer in the U.S., to conduct a randomized trial among overweight and obese adults. Participants received a wearable device, established a baseline, and were randomly assigned to a control group or one of three gamification interventions designed to enhance supportive, competitive, or collaborative social incentives.
In this randomized clinical trial of 602 overweight and obese adults from 40 states across the country, gamification interventions with support, collaboration, and competition each significantly increased physical activity compared with the control group during the 24-week intervention. Competition performed the best and lead to a 920 step per day increase compared to control.
During the 12-week follow-up, physical activity was lower in all arms but remained significantly greater in the competition arm than in the control arm with 569 more steps per day.
Over the course of the 9-month study, the average participant in the gamification with competition arm walked about 100 miles more than the average participant in the control arm. Since gamification is already used widely by insurance companies, workplace wellness programs, and digital health applications these findings could have a broad impact on health if implemented within these programs.