Physiological Responses and User Feedback on a Gameful Breathing Training App: Within-Subject Experiment
- Journal Article
Rights / licenseCreative Commons Attribution 4.0 International
Background: Slow-paced breathing training (6 breaths per minute [BPM]) improves physiological and psychological well-being by inducing relaxation characterized by increased heart rate variability (HRV). However, classic breathing training has a limited target group, and retention rates are very low. Although a gameful approach may help overcome these challenges, it is crucial to enable breathing training in a scalable context (eg, smartphone only) and ensure that they remain effective. However, despite the health benefits, no validated mobile gameful breathing training featuring a biofeedback component based on breathing seems to exist. Objective: This study aims to describe the design choices and their implementation in a concrete mobile gameful breathing training app. Furthermore, it aims to deliver an initial validation of the efficacy of the resulting app. Methods: Previous work was used to derive informed design choices, which, in turn, were applied to build the gameful breathing training app Breeze. In a pretest (n=3), design weaknesses in Breeze were identified, and Breeze was adjusted accordingly. The app was then evaluated in a pilot study (n=16). To ascertain that the effectiveness was maintained, recordings of breathing rates and HRV-derived measures (eg, root mean square of the successive differences [RMSSDs]) were collected. We compared 3 stages: baseline, standard breathing training deployed on a smartphone, and Breeze. Results: Overall, 5 design choices were made: use of cool colors, natural settings, tightly incorporated game elements, game mechanics reflecting physiological measures, and a light narrative and progression model. Breeze was effective, as it resulted in a slow-paced breathing rate of 6 BPM, which, in turn, resulted in significantly increased HRV measures compared with baseline (P<.001 for RMSSD). In general, the app was perceived positively by the participants. However, some criticized the somewhat weaker clarity of the breathing instructions when compared with a standard breathing training app. Conclusions: The implemented breathing training app Breeze maintained its efficacy despite the use of game elements. Moreover, the app was positively perceived by participants although there was room for improvement. Show more
Journal / seriesJMIR Serious Games
Pages / Article No.
PublisherJMIR Publications Inc.
Organisational unit03681 - Fleisch, Elgar / Fleisch, Elgar
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