For people with type 2 diabetes (T2D), lifestyle changes can help improve blood sugar control. However, keeping up these healthy behaviors, such as exercising and eating healthy, can be hard. Can games help people maintain healthy lifestyle changes?
Electronic games for health
“Gamification” is playing games on a phone or computer with points and/or levels. Researchers studied whether gamification can help people with poorly controlled T2D. This study included 361 overweight or obese adults with uncontrolled type 2 diabetes. Participants received a special watch to measure their physical activity, a weight scale, and an app for their phones. Participants in the gamification group entered into a 1-year game. This game provided points and levels for achieving step goals and weight loss targets. The game varied to promote support or collaboration or competition. For example, in the support game, participants were asked to identify a family member or friend who would help them stay on track with their healthy lifestyle change. In the collaboration game, participants were placed into a team to share progress. In the game focused on competition, participants were placed into a group and ranked against each other. Participants also chose how much they wanted their HbA1c (blood sugar measurement), weight and step count to change.
Using gamification can help, but is not the complete answer
When participants used games for support or competition, physical activity improved. However, games with collaboration did not change physical activity levels. All study groups lost weight and improved blood sugar levels. However, none of the different game groups resulted in significant differences in weight and blood sugar level compared to participants who were not in the gamification group.