Motivation and emotion/Book/2019/Exergaming and fitness motivation

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Exergaming and fitness motivation:
How does exergaming affect fitness motivation?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Figure 1. Young girl using Dance Dance Revolution a dancing type of exergame in an arcade

This chapter focuses on how exergaming affects fitness motivation and how this activity should be best approached when looking to increase fitness motivation in future exergames. The chapter first explores what exergaming entails and what motivation is, then explore how the two are integrated in various studies to understand what direction these games should be directed in, to make a positive impact on the heath of the individuals that use them.

The popularity of exergames continues to rise and has been identified by multiple studies to be beneficial to an individual's health by improving players stress levels, weight management, and fitness (Lieberman, 2006). Furthermore, due to the vast range of activities that the games cover (see Figure 1), as well as the inclusive nature of the games that are adjustable to suit individual performance level, social groups such as the elderly and individuals struggling with gross motor function impairment that struggle with fitness have been able to use exergames as a pathway to fitness motivation (MacIntosh et al., 2017). While research is still limited in this area, exergaming is quickly starting to demonstrate that it is an alternative tool for exercise and in turn, a valuable component for fitness motivation (Bond, Laddu, Ozemek, Lavie & Arena, 2019).

The Wii Heart Fitness study, is one such example. This study by Bock et al. (2019), compared the exercise levels of participants from three groups, randomised to either completing supervised exergaming, supervised standard exercise or a control group that completed activities as per usual over a 12 week period. The study recorded weekly minutes of the participants participation in moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) as well as a recording their fitness level that was determined by recording cardiovascular fitness, blood lipid levels and body composition. The recordings occurred at the beginning (baseline), after treatment (12 weeks), 6 and 9 months period (Bock et al., 2019). Results suggested that exergaming does present MVPA in individuals and is a good source of fitness (Bock et al., 2019).

Focus questions
  • What is exergaming?
  • What is motivation?
  • What motivational theories help explain the effect of exergaming on fitness motivation?
  • How can exergames be used in the future?

Exergaming[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail]

What is exergaming[edit | edit source]

Exergaming is a word used to describe exercise video games, also known as active video games that require an aspect of exercise that requires more than just your fingers and hands. Most exergames or 'exercise-games' work with the aid of some form of motion capture technology or GPS tracking device that receives the performed activity and inputs it into the system (See Figure 2.), and there are multiple different activities that can be completed in exergames from traditional sports, dancing and even window washing (Lieberman, 2006). Exergames often work though a reward system that recognises how well or how much the participant completed the activity and rewards them accordingly. The idea of the exergame or 'exercise-game' is to combine the benefits of both exercise and gaming to have a positive impact on the health of the individuals that participate in the activity.

Figure 2. Motion tracking Wii remote

Exergaming examples[edit | edit source]

Case study[edit | edit source]

Case study of an individual using exergaming as a pathway to increase fitness motivation

Eddie liked playing games on in the afternoon with his friends. Recently he noticed that he was a lot heavier than he used to be and wanted to try and get back to his original weight, but was a bit stuck because he still wanted to spend his afternoon hanging with his friends. His friends lived all over the area, so meeting up with all of them to hang out every afternoon would be extremely difficult to organise and quite unrealistic. Eddie asked if any of his friends wanted to they try an exergame for 15-30 min each day when they play. This worked out really well and everyone was happy to mix up the games and play a bit of exergaming as well. Eventually, Eddie found that with the extra exercising he was doing, he had begun to lose weight, had more energy and was more motivated to start going for runs in morning.

Would you consider starting an exergame to get fit or would you rather pursue traditional exercise?

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Quiz 1
Choose the correct answers and click "Submit":

What combination of words does exergame come from?

Existence + game
Exercise + game
Excursion + game
Exemption + game
Exertion + game

Motivation[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail]

What is motivation?[edit | edit source]

Motivation can be described as the reason behind the drive that makes individuals behave the way that they do (Locke & Schattke, 2018). Motivation can be divided into to subgroups of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (Locke & Schattke, 2018). While intrinsic motivation refers to doing an activity purely due to the enjoyment of completing that activity, extrinsic motivation is the completing the activity to avoid punishment (Locke & Schattke, 2018). There are a number[vague] of motivational theories that suggest an explanation for why individuals behave in the way that they do. Below are some of the motivational theories found in psychology that may help to explain the relationship between exergamining and fitness motivation separated according to learning theories, cognitive theories and positive theories.

Learning Theories[edit | edit source]

Hull's drive-stimulus reduction equation
E = H x D x K
Behaviour = Habit x Drive Tension x Incentive

Hull's drive-stimulus reduction theory[edit | edit source]

Hull’s drive-stimulus reduction theory explains motivation in a more mathematical way as a result of an equation. The foundations of the equation rest on the understanding that, motivation occurs when there are antecedent conditions, such as external events or social context (Hull, 1964). These drive internal motives, which are: needs, cognition and emotions or motives to create energised, goal-directed, persistent, action (Hull, 1964). Hull’s equation is (E = H x D x K) where E is strength of the behaviour, H is the strength of the habit, D is the drive tension or internal motives, such as hunger and K is the incentive (Hull, 1964).  

Positive reinforcement[edit | edit source]

Figure 3. Operant Conditioning flow chart

Positive reinforcement works by motivating the individual to achieve in order to receive an anticipated reward (Skinner, 1965). The theory is based on one of the reinforcement types of Skinner's operant conditioning theory (see Figure 3.), that identifies that behaviours that are met with positive outcomes, such as rewards or praise, will increase the chance of the behaviour being performed again (Skinner, 1965). In exergames, individuals are rewarded in a number of ways as they complete activities. Some examples include: levelling up, virtual prizes such as access to new activities or accessories to dress up your in-game avatar, or winning against other players, or the computer. Studies suggest that positive reinforcement contribute to player enjoyment when it comes to games (Nagel, Wolf, Robert & Novak, 2014) and in their study, also found that variable-ratio-schedule performed better than fixed-ratio-schedule games, especially if the reward schedule ratio was chosen by the player rather than a pre-determined one.

A study that explored enjoyment in exercise (Baranowski 2017), identified that enjoyment is a key contributor to producing high levels of motivation and continuation for exercise. Staff members that enjoy the games they were selling at conventions were photographed playing exergames in their free time (see Figure 4.).

Figure 4. Staff member at the Nintendo stand playing Wii tennis
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Quiz 2

Choose the correct answers and click "Submit":

1 Hull's drive-stimulus reduction equation is:

Behaviour = Habit x Drive Tension x Incentive
Drive = Habit x Behaviour x Sensation x Incentive
Action = Habit x Drive x Sensation x Incentive

2 Which of the following would increase a behaviour according to operant conditioning?

Forward reinforcement
Negative punishment
Negative reinforcement

Cognitive theories[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail]

Goal-Setting[edit | edit source]

Locke’s goal-setting theory explores how effective goal setting establishes motivation as the goals are set out in a way that is most achievable for the individual. Goal setting theory focuses on developing individualised sets of goals to increase motivation and productivity on completed activities (Locke & Latham, 1990). Goal setting theory also looks at developing set tasks that are achievable, to motivate the individual by providing a driver and keeping individuals focused on what is important (Locke & Latham, 1990). In order to achieve these goals Locke and Latham developed principles that can be utilised in creating achievable and motivating goals (Locke & Latham, 1990). The table below shows the 5 principle model developed by Locke and Latham (1990) that can be used when determining good goal setting practices (see Table 1.).

Table 1.

The 5 principles of Locke and Lathem

5 Factors Description Explanation
Clarity A specific clear goal that can be measured Without clarity an individual may never know when the goal has been achieved
Challenge Set challenging but attainable goals Both unattainable and overly simplistic goals will impact motivation and reduce performance
Feedback Receiving and listening to feedback Understanding the progress and allowing goal adjustment if needed
Task Complexity Not over complicating tasks Over complicated tasks can be overwhelming
Commitment Being committed to the task If there is not commitment towards a goal, individuals may not exert effort into obtaining the goal

Self-determination theory[edit | edit source]

Figure 5. Self-determination Venn diagram of basic needs

Another theory that helps to explain the relationship between exergaming and fitness motivation is self-determination theory (SDT). The foundations of SDT suggests that all individuals have evolved to be innately curious, active and social beings that are motivated from within by three basic needs (see Figure 5.) (Ryan & Deci, 2017). The concepts that encompass all behaviours that are instinctive and thought to be universal across all individuals (Deci & Ryan, 1985).

  • Autonomy - Individuals to have control over their lives and be in charge of their decisions.
  • Relatedness - There is a desire to be a part of other peoples lives and want to experience interaction and a sense of belonging.
  • Competence - Individuals want to achieve and master skills

One study specifically manipulated characteristics of an exergame in line with two of the basic needs of SDT to measure a number of different outcomes (Peng, Lin, Pfeiffer & Winn, 2012). The study fond that by turning the autonomy and competence features off in their game, as well as the respective needs appearing, engagement and motivation to continue to play the exergame was negatively impacted which supports the theory of self-determination (Peng, Lin, Pfeiffer & Winn, 2012). While this study doesn't express how exergaming would affect traditional fitness, it highlights that complying to the SDT may motivate fitness through the continuation of of using exergames.

Growth mindset[edit | edit source]

According to Dweck (1999) individuals sit on a scale between having a 'fixed' or 'growth' mindset about where their innate abilities come from (See Figure 6.). Individuals that have a fixed mindset believe that their current abilities and traits are ‘fixed’ or unchangeable and therefore do not go out of their way or strive to increase them in any way. On the other side of the spectrum are those with a ‘growth’ mindset, that believe that their skills and abilities are continuously strengthened through hard work and perseverance (Dweck, 2006). As a result, those with a growth mindset are more likely to strive to improve their abilities and are more motivated (Rhew, Piro, Goolkasian & Cosentino, 2018). A study that examined the effect of the different mindset on motivation found that while there was no significant difference to motivation levels when having a fixed mindset, having growth mindset, on the other hand, had a positive impact on motivation (Rhew, Piro, Goolkasian & Cosentino, 2018). A study by Chao, Lucke, Scherer & Montgomery (2015) further explored how exergames removed barriers form fitness motivation providing the space for a growth mindset to develop through the development of self efficacy. Implications of such studies suggest that exergames can help provide the opportunity to adjust individuals closer to a growth mindset by challenging the way individuals think about what they can achieve (Chao, Lucke, Scherer & Montgomery 2015)

Figure 6. Artists impression of fixed and growth mindset

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Quiz 3

Choose the correct answers and click "Submit":

1 Which is not one of the 5 principles of Locke and Lathem's goal setting theory?


2 Which is not a basic need from self-determination theory?


Positive theories[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail]

Flow theory[edit | edit source]

Figure 7. Diagram of flow theory showing the 3 different states

Flow theory breaks up cognitive experiences into a continuum of activity that either is  too much, too little or just the right amount of stimulation for that individual (Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). At the optimum level of stimulation, according to flow theory, an individual will be energised, engaged and will be motivated to attend to the task at hand (Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). Alternative studies sometimes refer to the optimal state as being 'in the zone’ (Geiser et al.,2016). The individual stimulation is on a continuum that can range from under to over stimulated activities, and if an activity is over stimulating for the individual, flow theory suggest that the individual will feel anxious or stressed (Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). On the other hand, if an activity is under stimulating, flow theory suggests that the individual will feel bored (See Figure 5.) (Csikszentmihalyi, 2000).

According to a study by Lee, Kim, Park & Peng (2017), exergaming elicit a number of components that aid in the increased participation of moderate to vigorous exercise. These motivational gains included: flow, immersion and enjoyment (Lee, Kim, Park & Peng, 2017). A further study by McDonough, Pope, Zeng, Lee & Gao (2018), compared college students’ energy expenditure, physical activity, and enjoyment during exergaming and traditional exercise on a treadmill. While the exergamers did not reach the intensity level of fast treadmill walking exercise level, the results suggested that individuals partaking in the exergaming have increased perceived enjoyment and decreased rating of perceived exertion (McDonough et al., 2018). While such studies explore aspects other than flow, the results suggest that exergames offer better stimulation for the individual compared to traditional exercise and further the support for increased participation in exergames as a form of fitness (McDonough et al., 2018).

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Quiz 4

Choose the correct answers and click "Submit":

How many parts does Flow theoy's continuum have?


Other ways exergames affect fitness motivation[edit | edit source]

Other incentives that appear inf[say what?] aspects of the game component and the fitness component of exergaming can be see in the table below (see Table 2.).

Table 2.

Other Aspects that motivate Aspects of Exergaming that Motivates Fitness

Fitness incentives Gaming incentives
Physical appearance Short term goals
Health benefits Rewards
Competition Competition
Achievement Weather / Controllable environment
Connecting with the community Moderate difficulty
Disease prevention Socialisation
Mental health benefits Inclusive
Physical Challenge Cognitive challenge

Future implications[edit | edit source]

As exergaming continues to be a popular activity and alternative to traditional fitness, there will most likely be a lot more variety than there already currently is (Lieberman, 2006). This will help more people get into exergames as well as the possibility of converting current gamers to include more active games into their current repertoire of games that they play. Future exergames should focus on the incentives of current games and traditional exercise to develop well rounded exergames that appeal to all types of people. As studies have indicated that exergames do provide an adequate level of fitness (Bock et al., 2019), promoting exergaming could positively increase the health of future generations. Furthermore, due to the lack of space needed to play exergames, using them to maintain fitness in locations with limited space or access to traditional fitness, such as in under water facilities and in space, could also have a positive impact on future individuals health and lifestyle.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

This chapter explored the question "How does exergaming affect fitness motivation" Current studies suggest that exergames provide an adequate level of fitness that is just below or equal to traditional fitness when it comes to moderate to vigorous physical activity (Bock et al., 2019). Studies that looked at exergames indicated an increase in motivation and engagement towards fitness when children and adolescents used exergaming (Benzing & Schmidt, 2018). Furthermore, in multiple studies, exergames reported a higher level of enjoyment and consistent fitness motivation compared to traditional fitness (McDonough, Pope, Zeng, Lee & Gao 2018). Through exploring some of the theories of motivation, exergames appeared to combine the benefits of gaming and exercise to create a positive impact on fitness motivation, allowing individuals to receive an adequate level of physical exercise while simultaneously having an enjoyable experience and are motivate to partake in the activity again.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy in changing societies. Cambridge [etc]: Cambridge University Press.

Baranowski, T. (2017). Exergaming: Hope for future physical activity? or blight on mankind?. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 6, 44-46.

Benzing, V., & Schmidt, M. (2018). Exergaming for children and adolescents: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 7, 422.

Bock, B., Dunsiger, S., Ciccolo, J., Serber, E., Wu, W., & Tilkemeier, P. et al. (2019). Exercise videogames, physical activity, and health: Wii heart fitness: a randomized clinical trial. American Journal Of Preventive Medicine, 56, 501-511.

Bond, S., Laddu, D., Ozemek, C., Lavie, C., & Arena, R. (2019). Exergaming and Virtual Reality for Health: Implications for Cardiac Rehabilitation. Current Problems In Cardiology, 100472. doi: 10.1016/j.cpcardiol.2019.100472

Chao, Y., Lucke, K., Scherer, Y., & Montgomery, C. (2015). Understanding the Wii Exergames Use: Voices from Assisted Living Residents. Rehabilitation Nursing, 41(5), 279-288. doi: 10.1002/rnj.216

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Beyond boredom and anxiety. San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass.

Deci, E., & Ryan, R. (1985). Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human Behavior. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4899-2271-7

Dweck, C. (1999). Self-theories. Philadelphia: Psychology Press.

Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset. New York: Random House.

Geiser C. Challco, Fernando R. H. Andrade, Simone S. Borges, Ig I. Bittencourt, & Seiji Isotani. (2016). Toward A Unified Modeling of Learner's Growth Process and Flow Theory. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 19(2), 215-227.

Hull, C. (1964). A Behavior System, etc. John Wiley & Sons: New York.

Lee, S., Kim, W., Park, T., & Peng, W. (2017). The psychological effects of playing exergames: a systematic review. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 20, 513-532.

Lieberman, D. (2006). Dance Games and Other Exergames: What the Research Says. Cite Seer, 1.

Locke, E., & Latham, G. (1990). A theory of goal setting & task performance. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall.

Locke, E., & Schattke, K. (2018). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: time for expansion and clarification. Motivation Science.

MacIntosh, A., Switzer, L., Hernandez, H., Hwang, S., Schneider, A., & Moran, D. et al. (2017). Balancing for Gross Motor Ability in Exergaming Between Youth with Cerebral Palsy at Gross Motor Function Classification System Levels II and III. Games For Health Journal, 6(2), 104-110. doi: 10.1089/g4h.2016.0073

McDonough, D., Pope, Z., Zeng, N., Lee, J., & Gao, Z. (2018). Comparison of college students’ energy expenditure, physical activity, and enjoyment during exergaming and traditional exercise. Journal Of Clinical Medicine, 7, 433.

Nagle, A., Wolf, P., Riener, R., & Novak, D. (2014). The Use of Player-centered Positive Reinforcement to Schedule In-game Rewards Increases Enjoyment and Performance in a Serious Game. International Journal Of Serious Games, 1(4). doi: 10.17083/ijsg.v1i4.47

Peng, W., Lin, J., Pfeiffer, K., & Winn, B. (2012). Need Satisfaction Supportive Game Features as Motivational Determinants: An Experimental Study of a Self-Determination Theory Guided Exergame. Media Psychology, 15(2), 175-196. doi: 10.1080/15213269.2012.673850

Skinner, B. (1965). Science and human behavior. New York: The Free Press, etc.

Rhew, E., Piro, J., Goolkasian, P., & Cosentino, P. (2018). The effects of a growth mindset on self-efficacy and motivation. Cogent Education, 5.

Ryan, R., & Deci, E. (2017). Self-determination theory (p. 3). New York: The Guilford Press.

External links[edit | edit source]