Zamzee is a game that gets kids moving: our goal is to fight sedentary behavior by making physical activity more fun for kids. But you might be curious about why Zamzee doesn’t focus on weight or BMI, or help families count calories. That’s a really good question, which we’ve thought a lot about. Here’s why we’ve chosen to focus on physical activity, not just obesity.
Over and over again, new research shows that being physically active is one of the best things you can do for your health – both now, and as a preventative for your future well-being. We know that physical inactivity is bad for you. But did you know that physical inactivity causes 6-10% of all deaths caused by heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancer?1 Yep, it’s the truth. The World Health Organization says that physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for death, and The Lancet attributes physical inactivity to 5.3 million deaths per year globally.2 And we all know that physical inactivity can be a contributing factor to obesity.
The good news is that behavioral changes, like increasing your physical activity, can reduce your risk of getting a variety of lifestyle diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Being active makes a big difference for your health, even if you’re not necessarily losing weight. In fact, people who walk for just 15-30 minutes per day reduce their risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes by 20-30%, and they have a 3-5 year longer life expectancy.3 That’s pretty incredible. By making it our mission to increase physical activity, we’re not addressing the symptom of a problem (like BMI). We’re tackling a primary source: sedentary behavior.4
But physical activity isn’t just important for your physiological health. It’s also good for your mental wellbeing. Being active reduces anxiety, stress and depression, and improves self-esteem and quality of life5-8. That’s great because it means being active makes kids emotionally strong. In contrast, “losing weight” often implies judgment about body image rather than health. We want to support positive body images for kids of all sizes. Most importantly, we want kids to focus on how their body feels, not how it looks. Feeling healthy is fun, and it’s important for every member of the family – not just those with a high BMI. After all, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that a raucous game of tag in the backyard does more to boost a child’s self-esteem than stepping on a scale ever will.
So the science is pretty clear that physical activity is really important for your physical and mental wellbeing. The problem is that physical activity starts declining dramatically during adolescence.9 A whopping 80% of 13-15 year olds don’t get 60 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity per day, which is the amount recommended by the CDC.10 That’s a pretty huge number, which is probably part of the reason why adults rate sedentary behavior as their number one biggest health concern facing kids. As kids get older, they spend less time moving their bodies around. That’s why Zamzee was designed for kids. By making physical activity more fun for kids and their families, we hope to make the world a better place, one where we all reap the positive benefits associated with being active now and for years to come.
1 I-Min Lee, Shiroma E, Lobelo F, Puska P, Blair S, Katzmarzyk P. Effect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwine: an analysis of burden of disease and life expectancy. Lancet 2012; 380: 219–29 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/ S0140-6736(12)61031-9
2 World Health Organization. ‘New physical activity recommendations for reducing disease and prevent deaths.’ February 3, 2011. Geneva. http://ow.ly/fiwSv
3 Chi Pang Wen, Xifeng Wu. Stressing harms of physical inactivity to promote exercise. Lancet. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/ S0140-6736(12)60954-4
4 Yes, we know physical inactivity isn’t the only cause of lifestyle diseases. But it’s one of them, and an important one at that.
5 Calfas KJ, Taylor WC. Effects of physical activity on psychological variables in adolescents. Pediatric Exercise Science 1994;6:406-23.
6 North TC, McCullagh P, Tran ZV. Effect of exercise on depression. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews 1990;18:379-415.
7 Petruzzello SJ, Landers DM, Hatfield BD, Kubitz KA, Salazar W. A meta-analysis on the anxiety-reducing effects of acute and chronic exercise. Outcomes and mechanisms. Sports Medicine (Auckland, NZ) 1991;11(3):143-82.
8 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical activity and health: A report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 1996.
9 Nader P, Bradley R, Houts R, McRitchie S, O’Brien M. Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity from ages 9 to 15 years. JAMA 2008, 300(3), 295-305.
10 Hallal P, Andersen L, Bull F, Guthold R, Haskell W, Ekelund U. Global physical activity levels: surveillance progress, pitfalls, and prospects. Lancet 2012; 380: 247–57, July 18, 2012 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/ S0140-6736(12)60646-1