Grad Research: Using Activity Trackers to Promote Daily Exercise

Zhao Zhao is a Carleton PhD student in Systems and Computer Engineering, who like many of us, recoils at the thought of exercise and loves playing computer games.

Zhao’s research hopes to help people like her, who may be reluctant to exercise, to become more active and to help them experience the benefits of a healthy lifestyle while making it a fun, rather than gruelling process.

Important to this research is the concept of “gamification” which refers to utilizing the thinking and mechanics of games in a non-game context. It has been broadly employed in health and fitness as an attempt to promote exercise and more active lifestyles.

Specifically, it helps users to achieve certain fitness goals and increase engagement by adding game features to physical activity. Motivated by the popularity and availability of wearable activity trackers, like the Apple Watch and Fitbit, Zhao’s research focuses on using activity tracker-based games to promote daily exercise.

To research this phenomenon, Zhao actually designed and implemented a smartphone game application.

“Recently we conducted a 70-day long-term user study to further investigate the motivational effects of using our system for promoting and sustaining exercise engagement,” said Zhao.

After this study is completed, Zhao will use participant feedback to improve the game. She hopes to get the game to work with other popular wearable devices and to have the game available on Apple’s App Store so that it is available to a large group of users.

Read the full story on the Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs site.