Health Wearables, Gamification, and Healthful Activity

54 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2019 Last revised: 24 Sep 2019

See all articles by Muhammad Zia Hydari

Muhammad Zia Hydari

University of Pittsburgh, Katz Graduate School of Business

Idris Adjerid

Pamplin College of Business

Aaron Striegel

University of Notre Dame

Date Written: June 15, 2019

Abstract

Health wearables in combination with gamification enable interventions that have the potential to increase physical activity --- a key determinant of health. However, the extant literature does not provide conclusive evidence on the benefits of such gamification and how these benefits will vary across individuals and gamification features. In this paper, we investigate the effect of Fitbit leaderboards on the number of steps taken by the user. Using a unique dataset of Fitbit wearable users, some of whom participate in a leaderboard, we find that leaderboards lead to a ≈370 (3.5 percent) step increase in the users' daily physical activity. However, we find that the benefits of leaderboard are highly heterogeneous. Surprisingly, we find that those who were highly active prior to adoption are hurt by leaderboards and walk ≈630 fewer steps daily post adoption (a 5 percent relative decrease). In contrast, those who were sedentary prior to adoption benefited substantially from leaderboards and walked an additional ≈1,300 steps daily after adoption (a 15 percent relative increase). We also find that the number of other active users on the leaderboard increased benefit but that this benefit decreased with additional users. Finally, we observe that strong prior performance on the leaderboard positively impacted subsequent physical activity. Overall, our results point to generally positive, but nuanced, benefits of gamification enabled by health wearables. In a non-trivial proportion of cases, individuals opt into variants of these interventions with negative effects on their physical activity.

Keywords: health wearables, gamification, health, fitness, physical activity, activity trackers

Suggested Citation

Hydari, Muhammad Zia and Adjerid, Idris and Striegel, Aaron, Health Wearables, Gamification, and Healthful Activity (June 15, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3429947 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3429947

Muhammad Zia Hydari (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh, Katz Graduate School of Business ( email )

Roberto Clemente Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

Idris Adjerid

Pamplin College of Business ( email )

2058 Pamplin College of Business
Blacksburg, VA 20461
United States

Aaron Striegel

University of Notre Dame ( email )

361 Mendoza College of Business
Notre Dame, IN 46556-5646
United States

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