Flow and Grit

Written by Gabi Constantinescu

Gabi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Alberta. She is also the CPO for True Angle. Her doctoral work directly influenced the design and development of the Mobili-T®, a mobile therapy system for swallowing exercise.

April 11, 2020

In this paper, we provide a viewpoint on how gamified health apps can enhance exercise adherence.


Purpose: Delivery of swallowing therapy is faced with challenges regarding access to in-clinic services and adherence to prescribed home programs. Mobile health (mHealth) technologies are being developed at a rapid pace to address these difficulties. Whereas some benefits to using these modern tools for therapy are obvious (e.g., electronic reminders), other advantages are not as well understood. One example is the potential for mHealth devices and apps to enhance adherence to treatment regimens.

Method: This article introduces a number of psychological concepts that relate to adherence and that can be leveraged by mHealth. Elements that contribute to flow (optimal experience) during an activity and those that reinforce grit (perseverance to achieve a long-term goal) can be used to engage patients in their own rehabilitation.

Results: The experience of flow can be targeted by presenting the rehabilitation exercise as an optimally challenging game, one that offers a match between challenge and ability. Grit can be supported by reinforcing routine and by varying the therapy experience using different games.

Conclusions: A combination of hardware and software design approaches have the potential to transform uninteresting and repetitive activities, such as those that make up swallowing therapy regimens, into engaging ones. The field of gamification, however, is still developing, and gamified mHealth apps will need to withstand scientific testing of their claims and demonstrate effectiveness in all phases of outcome research.

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