The top 10 health & fitness apps of 2021 all have one thing

These are exciting times for Health & Fitness apps. Last year, the sector generated a staggering 2.5 billion downloads, an increase of over half a billion compared to 2020. Going into 2022, what can apps learn from the success stories of the year? The answer lies in how the top health & fitness apps motivate users – with clever gamification features like badges and in-app communities. To boost your growth in 2022, we’ve gathered 10 gamification examples from the leading industry apps.

How 2021 changed the health & fitness market

As 2021 ends, the mHealth balance sheet looks healthier than ever. In what is a huge milestone, 2022 is expected to be the year that the sector makes over $100 billion for the first time. Ever-increasing numbers of downloads and consumer spending are the cause of an exciting growth period affecting the whole industry, from meditation platforms to sports & diet trackers, and even instructional exercise apps.

mhealth apps insights

So the outlook is bright. But of course, the benefits are not shared by everybody. The number of mHealth apps on the market is rising steadily by 6.5% every year, and in 2021 that figure reached the highest ever, with over 53,000 apps available to download.

The unprecedented competition coincides with the consolidation of the market, and this has created a difficult environment to thrive in. While many apps do their best to vie for attention, the top apps rake in the cash. For context, Fitbit, the #1 top-grossing app in health & fitness, makes $3 million a month in the US alone. On the other end of the scale, you do not have to go far to see the revenue taper off – app #15 makes just $200,000.

Certainly, it is enviable that these apps bring about healthier lifestyles for their users and make money doing it. To get the job done, and lead the market, the world’s top health & fitness apps utilize gamification. Put simply, these apps all implement a range of gamification features designed to motivate users & keep them engaged!

Let’s run down the top 10 grossing health & fitness apps and see how they gamify:

#1 Fitbit and the leaderboard that encourages users to run harder

Fitbit is a health & fitness app used with a wearable wrist device. The app tracks your daily steps, which buy your way up the leaderboard. Leaderboards are one of the most effective gamification examples because it creates a magnetic sense of social connection. Users find enjoyment and fulfillment when they can compete (or collaborate) with friends!

What’s more, they can then share the results on social media, which we call a positive intensifier. It clearly works, as Fitbit has over 29 million weekly active users. Studies show that the leaderboard alone leads to a 15% increase in daily steps!

leaderboard gamification features fitbit

#2 MyFitnessPal tracks users’ calorie intake – and gives them all the info they need to act

Calorie counter MyFitnessPal makes a cool million dollars monthly, and it does so because the app is a master of motivation. On MyFitnessPal, users can set a goal for their calorie intake, and this target defines the graphs and visualizations they see. As a result, their graphs and progress trackers are personalized to their custom goals.

Gamification examples like goal-setting have the power to transform your user’s quest! Studies show that personalized tools are more effective at helping users achieve goals.

gamification examples fitness apps

#3 Calm uses personalized gamification features to reduce churn

How did wellness app Calm achieve a 3x boost to user retention? Simple – by letting users set their own push notifications reminding them to meditate.

With Calm’s Daily Reminder feature, users receive a motivating message at a time of their choosing. By personalizing push notifications, Calm not only avoids frustrating new users with clutter but also helps facilitate habit formation.

wellness personalization app fitness

#4 WW incentivizes users to meet their goals with rewards

The Weight Watchers app combines all weight loss tools in one. Users can track anything from diet, water intake, sleep all the way up to physical exercise. The app even allows you to scan your favorite foods to effortlessly track nutrients. Besides tracking users can take guided coaching sessions & mindset training.

When users on the WW app hit their goals, they get a ‘Win’. This is positive reinforcement at its most clear! Moreover, wins rack up points that elevate your standing in a tiered rewards system. With it, users are motivated to win to earn feel-good items such as gym memberships or free body products.

This reward system takes advantage of the mechanics behind many gamification examples. Namely, constraint and accomplishment. In short, constraint means that users crave things that are locked off to them. By hiding increasingly more generous prizes behind tiers, users are motivated to keep going! In turn, this provides accomplishment and the happy feelings that come with it. It’s a positive feedback loop!

points reward system

#5 Headspace uses badges and streaks to boost user self-esteem

Headspace is one of the world’s most successful meditation apps. Where the app excels is in habit formation, essential for creating an active user base. Certainly, the app’s gamification features facilitate habit formation:

gamification examples wellness apps

#6 Replika has a smart, personalized AI made to align with the user

You may not have heard of the wellness app Replika, but it is highly successful. Currently, the app boasts 10 million registered users. These users, mostly between the ages of 16-24, come to Replika for conversations with an AI-powered chatbot that acts as a virtual friend or a mentor. Amazingly, 85% of Replika users feel better after conversing with the AI.

What makes Replika’s AI so special is that it is meticulously personalized to the user. The more the user chats with the AI, the more the chatbot will develop a compatible personality. How cool is that! The approach is backed up by research studies that show how customizable tools enhance user autonomy – for example by molding a personal AI chatbot – & increase intentions to engage.

gamification examples personalization app

#7 Lose It! issues challenges to users that makes them go the extra mile

Lose It! uses the proven principles of calorie tracking to educate and help you succeed. To get started just input your profile details with your goal weight and they will calculate the ideal daily calorie budget best for you. Next, easily track your food, weight, and activity and get ready to celebrate your weight-loss victories. There’s no easier way to change your habits and learn about your nutrition needs.

Of all the gamification features, challenges are some of the most fun. This is especially important for tracking apps, where their very point requires lots of repetitive tasks. By including a competitive and exciting element, users are more likely to complete them!

gamification features challenges app

#8 Yoga-Go makes the customer value clear

From their user-centric interface to a simple and personalized onboarding, Yoga-Go is quick and easy to get into. For one, these features make users more motivated to return to the app regularly. But right from the beginning, it means that users are less likely to become frustrated and churn early. Why? Because the user value is clear! This approach made Yoga-Go hugely successful, generating $2 million every month.

gamification examples onboarding apps

#9 The Peloton community is powered by gamification features

Of all the fitness apps, Peloton is perhaps the one with the tightest community. The benefits of an in-app community are clear, boosting user retention metrics by 2.7x. Forbes notes that Peloton’s social integration runs deep, and it’s because of the gamification that introduces social elements to the app. Users can show off shared badges earned in team challenges, and even brag about hitting the top place on a live class leaderboard!

gamification features leaderboard fitness mhealth

#10 Plan a personalized program with Muscle Booster

Muscle Booster has over 1000 workouts available of between 30 and 60 minutes. You can simply choose the area you want to work out & get a personalized workout plan.

The first thing you want when new users install your app is to immediately see the potential benefits. By asking users what areas of the body they want to optimize, Muscle Booster gives the user autonomy. This is crucial for mHealth apps because health is intrinsically personal. As such, when you implement personalized features, you give customers ownership over the user experience – making them more likely to stay.

personalized fitness gamification

What we can learn from these gamification features

It is clear by now that the best mHealth apps understand human motivation. By leveraging gamification features like points and levels, these apps become so fun and motivating to use that 35% of users see better outcomes in their health goals. Meanwhile, they retain users and boost their business in the process!

To be sure, the mHealth industry is banking on the benefits of gamification. As a result, the gamification industry is set to grow at a stunning yearly rate of 25% up to 2025. With this in mind, does your app take advantage of gamification mechanics?

  • Relationships. Make your app feel more real and necessary.
  • Accomplishment. Users crave personal growth!
  • Empowerment. Today’s consumers expect autonomy and personalization.
  • Unpredictability. Gamification keeps your app lively, which reduces churn.
  • Constraint. Incentivize retention by locking benefits for your most loyal users.

In short, is your app made to motivate? Are you confident that your app features these powerful mechanics? To thrive in 2022, you need to use every tool at your disposal.


  • Health & fitness is growing fast, in 2021 there were 2.5 billion app downloads!
  • How are all the top apps motivating users in a saturating market? With gamification examples like badges and leaderboards.
  • Fitbit’s leaderboard leads to a 15% increase in daily steps.
  • MyFitnessPal’s personalization tools make users more likely to achieve goals.
  • Calm achieved a 3x boost to retention with a simple ‘Daily Reminder’ feature.
  • WW’s tiered loyalty system rewards accomplishment with prizes and freebies.
  • Headspace celebrates early achievements – see the ‘endowed progress effect’.
  • 10 million Replika users are more likely to engage thanks to a personalized AI.
  • Lose It! challenges bring users together with a common goal.
  • Yoga-Go has a simple, user-centric interface that lowers barriers.
  • Peloton’s social features create a self-motivating loyal community.
  • Personalized workout features let Muscle Booster users work on their goals.

Lead the pack in a record-breaking year for health & fitness apps! Book a value-packed gamification workshop & design a custom app gamification strategy & roadmap to achieve your goals!

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