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Researchers Developed Web-Based Game to Encourage Physical Exercise

A team of researchers at the University of Iowa designed a web-based game, which can be played by with a smartphone and a Fitbit

A majority of population lack physical exercise, which increases the risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer. The Computational Epidemiology Research (CompEpi) Group, a collaborative group of students and faculty in the UI computer science, internal medicine, and HHP departments designed the game named as MapTrek. The study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in July 2018.

MapTrek syncs of from accelerometers-in the case of this study, Fitbits-with the web-based MapTrek game. MapTrek moves a virtual avatar along a Google Maps map in proportion to the number of steps taken by participant. To examine the efficiency of game, participants were grouped together and competed against one another in weekly walking challenges. Using Google’s street view function, users can click and see where they’re at in real time, effectively turning the game into a virtual walk or race through different locations.

Furthermore, MapTrek sends user text messages daily reminding to wear Fitbit and users can take part in daily challenges to earn bonus steps. As a part of the study, a total of 146 participants, including sedentary office workers, ages 21-65 who reported sitting at least 75 percent of their workday–were divided into two groups. Both were given Fitbits, but only one group used their Fitbit along with the MapTrek game. Their activity levels were monitored with the Fitbit’s activity monitor.

During the 10-week study, it was found that the Fitbit and MapTrek group walked 2,092 more steps per day and completed 11 more active minutes per day compared with the Fitbit-only group. Furthermore, team will be working on sedentary office workers and clinical populations, including cardiac rehab patients and those suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease