Playing While You Walk: Using a Game to Engage Older Adults in Physical Activity

Research has long shown that physical activity can protect against negative health outcomes and keep people aging well. Given the many challenges that can come with maintaining this type of activity long-term, recent research is exploring ways to help older adults become more independently motivated to engage in physical activity. Researchers in Texas are exploring how to make physical activity more interesting and autonomous by developing a photography-based, social media walking game that includes challenges such as snapping photos of specific kinds of trees or animals outside or finding a route you haven’t taken before.

This study aimed to explore how 20 women between 65 and 85 would react to the walking game. After participating in the game, these women each participated in in-depth, semi-structured interviews to help the researchers analyze the participants’ reactions to the content of the game. Independent reviewers conducted thematic content analysis to identify common themes within the interviews, and found themes of competition, discovery, exploration, expression, fellowship, humor, nurture, and sensation. Researchers also derived from the interviews that the game increased motivation for physical activity, fostered a shift in perspective, and increased knowledge. Not only that, it also helped participants make meaningful connections with others and provided health-related benefits—both of which are shown to be important parts of aging well.

Although this game was only tested on a small group of older women and more data is needed to make further claims about its effectiveness, future research could dive deeper into games such as this to determine the best way to make physical activity more engaging for older adults. Whether someone tries these challenges or not, finding a way to make physical activity the most fun could help motivate them to get moving!


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Robertson, M. C., Swartz, M. C., Christopherson, U., Bentley, J. R., Basen-Engquist, K. M., Thompson, D., Volpi, E., & Lyons, E. J. (2022). A photography-based, social media walking intervention targeting autonomous motivations for physical activity: Semistructured interviews with older women. JMIR Serious Games, 10(2).

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