by on Jan.31, 2012, under Fitness

What is incentive game programming? Let us first begin with a brief discussion on why people do or do not exercise, which will lead us back to this question. It has been argued that lack of motivation is the most important deterrent to regular exercise.2 A person needs some sort of self-motivation in order to come to your club to work out, and this can be for intrinsic or extrinsic reasons.

Someone who is intrinsically motivated to exercise usually does so because he/she enjoys it, and obtains some sort of personal satisfaction. Someone who is extrinsically motivated to exercise usually does so because he/she will get something for it — recognition, money or some sort of reward.

Incentive games tend to promote extrinsic desires by motivating exercisers toward a prize for participation. Studies have found that getting people to do a task for a reward is OK early on, but is not the best approach for the long run.3 People become dependent on the reward rather than the behavior, and rewards can always be taken away, causing the behavior to disappear until the reward is brought back. It has also been argued that people who are intrinsically motivated to do a task will adhere to the task much longer over time.3

Thus, incentive games may help get a person started, but you, as a staff member, should help them move from extrinsic motivation to intrinsic motivation, as a means of promoting exercise adherence.

This means getting the member motivated about something else when your club is not running an incentive game — perhaps by helping the member discover how much better he/she feels when consistently exercising.

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