The appeal of fitness tracking apps

We are moving into a time when our lives, leisure and fitness activities are increasingly augmented by technology. Not only the rapid development in traditional technology project, but the creation of new intelligent digital materialities, helping people to motivate in exercising through a manifest digital achievement. I was one of the beneficiaries of gamification in health and fitness apps.

Similar to the app Strava mentioned in the article Healthy competition: A qualitative study investigating persuasive technologies and the gamification of cycling, I am deeply influenced by a fitness tracking app called ‘walkr’. Walkr is kind of an app that combines the phone’s pedometer with a gun galaxy adventure game. It could help me track my walks and runs via my iPhone to analyze and quantify today’s exercise performance.  With ‘Walkr in your pocket’, the daily steps are automatically recorded and converted into energy fuel for your spaceship. Also, similar as the cycle computers using on the bicycle, it tracks and records the amount of calories you burn and recommends daily fitness goals.

I downloaded the app four years ago, using it every day since then. For me, Walkr represents a new form of health surveillance providing a deeper sense of understanding about my body and performance which I use to improve my fitness levels. This health-conscious app has already become an important part of my individual and collective activities.

I agree with what @jacquelineneuf said in the response, the pursue of gamification applies game mechanics and game design in order to motivate people to achieve their goals imperceptibly. The gamification helps ‘walkers’ to establish new patterns and regimes of walking and running in order to motivate themselves to maintain and improve fitness and health. Challenges, training and profile development functions help maintain activity and engagement with the app and pursuit. However, the appeal of fitness tracking apps is not universal, some actively oppose or resist them, while others cite displeasure from the peer evaluation and surveillance that the apps entail and promote. In the future, developers may need to make further technological innovations in the privacy of apps. On the one hand, we have to maintain the motivation that apps adds on people to exercise, on the other hand, the health-conscious app may need to weaken the competition system a bit in order not to undermine people’s self-confidence.

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  1. Thanks for your wonderful reading response. I agree with you. Gamification can also make boring sports, such as running, interesting and improve people’s health. For example, there is a famous game case “zombies, run!” We artificially design a “dangerous” environment, such as being in a zombie siege, creating a situation where zombies are constantly chasing after through sound effects and other means, and we run to avoid zombies. So, we turn the real-world behavior of running into the game-level behavior of zombie escape. Through the completion of the game, to achieve adherence to running.


  2. Thank you for your insight! While in agreement with your argument of gamification as encouraging individuals to increase productivity and, with your personal example ‘Walkr’, encourage health and fitness, how much of your walk is spent with your mentality spent in the game and how much of it is actually spent outside? While I agree with the implementation of gamification as a positive driving force, it is interesting to examine the impact it has on an individual’s incentive and how that contributes to the activities they perform or the goals they accomplish outside of the game itself.


  3. Thank you for your great response! I agree with your idea that gamification on fitness application can motivate people to do more exercise and maintain a healthy habit. I have a similar experience with you;i found that is hard for me to do exercise, but with the gamificational fitness applications, i got motivation and goals from the apps to keep my exercise. But here I have a question, just like my question in my reading response? Do we really need that exercise? Are we already affected by competitive thought to do plenty of needless exercise? Are we sometimes just wanting to complete the progress bar, or becoming the No.1 in the scoreboard. From my own experience, even I got ill sometimes, I still want to finish my walking steps goal on fitness apps; I think it is the unnecessary exercise motivated by gamification. What about your idea? Thank you!


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