How Gamification Can Help Your Gym to Grow

Discover why you should implement some form of gamification in your gym and how it can help build a stronger sense of community.

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You may have heard the term gamification recently, and you may have also heard how it is increasingly used to turn previously “boring” tasks into something enjoyable and positive. But can gamification help your gym? This article will look at exactly what gamification is, and how it can help to increase membership and retention in your gym.

What is Gamification?

You can easily find well-written definitions for gamification online. Essentially, it is turning boring and difficult tasks into smaller more manageable tasks through the use of game playing. Turning washing the dishes into a competition between your kids to see who can wash up the most plates is a basic example of gamification.

Recently, gamification has evolved into a much more ambitious way to improve habit formation. Apps that employ gamification can break down large tasks (learning a language for example) into smaller challenges that offer rewards. They can also increase adherence, by rewarding daily check-ins, which is good for the app, and good for the user.

Pokémon Go is an example of a game that encourages people to walk more often, with players receiving rewards for doing so. The game was not designed to improve fitness, but improved fitness has certainly been an unexpected benefit. For someone who is fully invested in the game, walking more offers them a competitive advantage over other players.

Their motivation therefore comes from the game, rather than from the desire to walk more for their health. The hope with many similar apps is that over time, the benefits of exercising more will provide their own motivation.

Adding rewards, a sense of competition, and helping players/users to form a community, can all help to increase the chances of succeeding in whatever the overall goal is.

What are the Benefits of Gamification?

There are many benefits to gamification, both for the user and for the company. Here are a list of some of the most effective benefits.


The reason that most people fail to make long-lasting changes to their lifestyle is a lack of long-term motivation. Change can be disruptive, difficult, and unenjoyable. To persevere in something like exercise, you need to be motivated. Either intrinsic or external.

Usually, when it comes to exercise, external motivation will come from a coach or trainer, or from exercising with a friend. Intrinsic motivation will come from your desire to lose weight or build muscle.

But intrinsic motivation doesn’t always last very long, and it can easily be trumped by a desire to stay at home and watch TV. External motivation is usually more effective, but it often requires you to do extra work (i.e., help to motivate your friend) or to pay money (for a trainer).

Apps or programs that use gamification can help to create both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, which can help people to continue with a habit or routine in a situation where they may normally have given up.

Habit forming

Gamification is often used to help with the formation of habits. For example, everyone knows that if you move more during the day, you will increase your metabolism, which can help with weight loss. Doing a little bit every single day is one of the most effective ways to lose weight.

Creating a habit can take time, and most people struggle to keep it up. Gamification can really help here, by rewarding you (points, prizes, kudos from your friends) for each daily check-in, it can help you to establish that habit.

Community Support

A study in 2010 looked at the effectiveness of an online weight loss support group. The people who were surveyed were majority white and female, and in their late 30s. The majority of members talked about how being in a community (even online where nobody ever met each other) led to an increase in motivation.

The study also found that many participants believed that the community had helped improve their knowledge of weight loss, and they valued the fact that they were all living a shared experience. “We’re all in this together!” is a powerful motivational tool. Seeing others succeed was seen as motivating (rather than demoralising).

What was interesting, is that many members claimed to value their anonymity. They didn’t want to meet the other members face-to-face. Or rather, they weren’t too fussed either way. Yet they felt close to these people, and part of a community.

Gym owners should be sitting up and paying attention right here. As this offers a best of both worlds scenario. They can foster a community with a strong sense of belonging amongst their members, without having to organise events or even bother to get the members to interact in person. A good online community can do all that for them.


New members can get into it quicker and existing members are more likely to stay on course if there are rules and a defined path to follow. Gamification can provide that. Offering advice and breaking weight loss/muscle building (or whatever) down into a step-by-step process.

This will help people to adhere to a fitness program, which will in turn lead to habit formation, and long-term success. Which is beneficial for gyms and for members.

Examples of Gamification in Fitness

Pokémon Go is a great example of gamification, as it has led to many thousands of weight loss stories. But let’s not forget, the main aim of Pokémon Go is to get people playing Pokémon, it is NOT to lose weight.

Zombies, run! Is probably a better example of gamification in fitness. Not only is it one of the first running apps that really became famous, but it is also an example of different types of gamification. The first way that it employs gamification is by providing you with stats of your runs and tracking each workout. Something that many people enjoy.

It also offers badges, rewards, and a community. But where Zombies, run! differs from the competition is that it offers a story that you can unlock with each run/walk you do. This takes you into a video game mindset immediately and gives you more to look forward to when you complete a run/walk.

Outside of apps, Nerdfitness is a great example of a fitness community that uses gamification to make exercise more fun and introduce it to people who enjoy video games. There is the ability to “level up” you can build stats like you could in World of Warcraft, and there is a huge online community that can support each other.

Why Gyms Need Gamification

It’s important to find different ways to motivate your members. By hosting team competitions or offering shakes or protein bars as rewards, you can take the first steps to motivating your members to keep up the hard work. If your members are motivated, they get more out of your services and ultimately are more satisfied. Member satisfaction goes a long way for increasing the average lifespan of your members and reducing your member churn rate. 

Gamification also offers a sustainable path to building a strong sense of community. There are plenty of ways gyms can leverage gamification to bring their communities together through good spirited competition or support. Gamification is a great way for your members to get to know each other, or even just feel a sense of belonging. In the end, it will bring your community closer together. 

Now more than ever, gyms need to understand the benefits of gamification. With the rise of home workouts and new consumer fitness technologies, gyms will have a harder time attracting new members and keeping existing ones. But with an in-person community and on-site services, your gym can leverage more with gamification than at home fitness solutions or other alternatives.

How to Introduce Gamification to Your Gym

With something like gamification, a soft approach will completely fail. You need to introduce it to everyone associated with the gym. You need to make it an important feature of membership and highlight it as a huge benefit to each and every member. Sure, many members will still refuse to use it, but a large amount (particularly new members) should embrace it.

  1. Educate your members on how to use it effectively
  2. Incentivise them to do so
  3. Encourage them to keep up with it

How Gamification Can Increase Gym Cohesion

Creating an online community which competes and/or communicates with each other is a great way to make people feel loyal to your gym. Loyalty can help to increase the longevity of each membership. The longer a person stays, the more social contacts they make within the gym, and when enough people are staying for long periods of time, gym cohesion will skyrocket.

The best part is that once you get the ball rolling, it can lead to more people joining and staying, as they see the cohesion as a benefit. This is why/how CrossFit became so popular. They created a gym system that built loyalty and cohesion. This created a community feel to their gyms, which enticed new members to join.

How Gamification Can Help Your Gym Grow: Final Thoughts

There are many factors that will ultimately help your gym to grow. Gamification technology is one of them. You still need good customer service, a reliable sales team, and a well-preserved gym floor. But gamification technology is going to become more and more popular and effective over the years, and you really don’t want to get left behind.

It’s fun, it helps create a community, it improves member engagement, and can improve gym adherence, which ultimately improves cohesiveness. Happy members who are starting to see good results are more likely to stay members, which will help your business to stay afloat. A strong gym community can also attract new members, helping your gym to expand and grow.

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