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Gamification and social incentives to promote physical activity

Project status

Pilot/study with results


Dylan Small, PhD 

Gregory Reh, MS 

Gregory Szwartz, MS 

James Guszcza, PhD 

David Steier, PhD 

Innovation leads


Deloitte Consulting 

External partners

Deloitte Consulting 


Physical activity is associated with many health benefits, including reduced rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. However, more than 50 percent of adults in the United States do not get enough physical activity to obtain such benefits.  


We partnered with Deloitte Consulting to pilot Social incentives to Encourage Physical Activity and Understand Predictors, or STEP UP, a six-month randomized clinical trial with more than 600 overweight and obese adults from across the country.  

Way to Health was used to administer and manage the program. Participants received a wearable device, established an activity baseline, set a step goal increase, and were randomly assigned to a control group or one of three gamification interventions designed to increase physical activity via supportive, competitive, or collaborative incentives.  

Participants could choose to receive messages from the study team via email or text during the pilot period. 


Gamification interventions with supportive, competitive, and collaborative incentives significantly increased physical activity. The competition arm performed the best, with a 920-step increase per day compared to the control arm. During the three-month follow-up period, physical activity was lower in all groups. Still, it remained significantly greater in the competition arm than in the control arm, with participants taking 569 more daily steps.  

Throughout the study, the average participant in the competitive incentive arm walked about 100 miles more than the average participant in the control arm.  

Large employers can leverage insights from this study to enhance the effectiveness of workplace wellness programs and improve the health of employee populations. 

Way to Health Specs

Learn more about the platform
Activity monitoring
Arms and randomization
Criteria-based rules
Dashboard view
Device integration
EHR integration
Multiple languages
Patient portal messaging
Patient-reported outcomes capture
Photo messaging
Remote patient monitoring
Schedule-based rules
Survey administration
Two-way texting
Vitals monitoring