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Effects of Performance Versus Game-Based Mobile Applications on Response to Exercise



Given the popularity of mobile applications (apps) designed to increase exercise participation, it is important to understand their effects on psychological predictors of exercise behavior.


This study tested a performance feedback-based app compared to a game-based app to examine their effects on aspects of immediate response to an exercise bout.


Twenty-eight participants completed a 30-min treadmill run while using one of two randomly assigned mobile running apps: Nike + Running, a performance-monitoring app which theoretically induces an associative, goal-driven state, or Zombies Run!, an app which turns the experience of running into a virtual reality game, theoretically inducing dissociation from primary exercise goals.


The two conditions did not differ on primary motivational state outcomes; however, participants reported more associative attentional focus in the performance-monitoring app condition compared to more dissociative focus in the game-based app condition.


Game-based and performance-tracking running apps may not have differential effects on goal motivation during exercise. However, game-based apps may help recreational exercisers dissociate from exercise more readily. Increasing the enjoyment of an exercise bout through the development of new and innovative mobile technologies is an important avenue for future research.

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Authors’ Statement of Conflict of Interest and Adherence to Ethical Standards

Authors Arielle S. Gillman and Angela D. Bryan declare that they have no conflict of interest. All procedures, including the informed consent process, were conducted in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000.

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Correspondence to Arielle S. Gillman BA.

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Gillman, A.S., Bryan, A.D. Effects of Performance Versus Game-Based Mobile Applications on Response to Exercise. ann. behav. med. 50, 157–162 (2016).

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  • Exercise
  • Mobile apps
  • Reversal theory
  • Goals
  • Motivation