Let’s play! Engage your members with gamification

By adding elements of gaming and competition to members’ activities, you can increase engagement, enhance results and strengthen community says An Coppens.

Gamification – the application of game elements and psychology to non-game situations such as working out – is a growing trend. Look at the technology your members are wearing, such as Fitbits, Garmins and Apple Watches, and apps they are using, like Runkeeper, FitStar, Endomondo, iCardio and countless others. Most of these include some form of gamification, whether it’s a feedback dashboard, trophy cabinet, leader board with friends to compete against, or badges for achievement. There is nothing to stop you, as a fitness business owner, from creating a similarly fun and competitive vibe with your members and clients – and you can even do so without having to invest in an app.


The key to success with applying gamification to your business is to truly understand what your members and prospective members want from their membership with you. Different people want different things, so try building ‘persona profiles’ that include their typical worries, behaviours and actions in a number of stereotype-like avatars.

Then look at designing activities that will engage each of these persona profiles. The activities should include some carrot-type motivators to attract inactive and prospective members and increase participation among active members, and some intrinsic motivation-focused strategies that appeal to the very reason they joined in the first place. Carrot-type motivators can be challenges, quests and competitions, whereas more intrinsic motivation might take the form of rewards and positive messages related to frequency of visits and tracked exercise progress.


You could create a themed challenge based around the Rio Olympics or a local event such as a triathlon, in which you invite members for that month to take part in three different forms of exercise and log their progress. PUMP devotee Liz might add Pilates and resistance training to her routine, while weights room resident Marco tries his hand at yoga and small group training. By having a competitive element that encourages members to do more than one exercise, you can increase their attendance and the value they place in your services. The top 3 achievers could be rewarded with club merchandise, a free PT session or other relevant prizes.

Be inclusive

It can also be good to have a weekly top performer award, a consistency award and maybe a few random awards, so everyone taking part is in with a chance of winning something, not only Six-Pack Sam who practically lives in the club. You may even kick off a challenge of this nature with a group class that accommodates all fitness levels: the more inclusive you can be, the larger the audience you will appeal to. Personal trainers can also use this approach to help clients compete not against each other, but against themselves by beating their personal best.

Spread the word

Creating a winning challenge will need to be a team effort for most gym owners, so get everyone involved. To start, you will need to invite members to join the challenge via posters and verbally at reception, from trainers and in classes. You should also reach out to those who aren’t currently active via email, snail-mail or SMS, as well as on social media. The sign-up can be done simply enough through a form at reception, and tracking can also be done on paper, with members logging activity as they leave the gym. This can then be checked on a regular basis and activities tallied up on a leaderboard, which can be updated daily or weekly. Winners and prizes should be recognised in public with a small ceremony, and a photo of the weekly leader with their prize placed by the leaderboard.

CASE STUDY: Active Management

Off course all of this can be done online or through apps too. I recently worked with Justin Tamsett of Active Management to put a gamification strategy together for his fitness business owners membership site. We started by creating profiles of the typical members and from there decided on a number of game-like journeys.

We launched the ‘Game of fitness leadership’ with a ‘getting started’ challenge, whereby members received a mailshot with specific steps to complete inside the membership forum within a two-week period. All activities were rewarded with points and some unlocked special badges, the ultimate goal being to familiarise members with the new format and to have them upload profile pictures to give it a more human club feel.

We also created a consistency path, whereby members who take regular actions, from downloading materials to contributing to the forum, will unlock VIP rewards when they keep up their great work. Active Management is also featuring specific business growth challenges to encourage members to achieve what they signed up for. So far, the results are quite promising, with action by members increasing by 10 per cent in the first week and 20 per cent since then.


If you use fitness tracking apps, start noticing what you particularly like about them and what keeps you using them. Ask members what apps they are using and why they like them to gain tried and tested ideas for your own gamification strategy. Work with your team to come up with creative and fun challenges, and build relationships with local suppliers to source prizes and rewards. Once you’ve decided on your game, spread the word and then enjoy rolling it out and engaging your members on a whole new level.

An Coppens is chief game changer at Gamification Nation and Gamification Ninja for Active Management. She specialises in gamification design and works with companies worldwide to help them achieve business results with game psychology and game elements.