By Ann Greenberg
About a year ago I signed my daughters up for a 5k race and found out about a local company called Zamzee. Having spent the better part of the last 12+ years trying to keep my three darling daughters healthy and physically fit, I was intrigued by Zamzee’s claim to engage kids in a more active lifestyle. Days later, we had ourselves 3 shiny, pink meters. Unsure of what to do, I put the girls (then aged 7, 10 and 12) to work exploring the Zamzee.com website and signing up their meters. Almost instantaneously, the way my kids viewed physical activity changed…for the better.
Let me backtrack and age myself a bit first by saying I grew up in the era of riding bikes to school (helmet-free of course), playing at the local park with friends until dusk, swimming in the neighbors pool and heading home, on my own, before the street lamps went on. I didn’t play on 3 different teams year round, I didn’t watch what I ate, and I was a healthy size with little or no effort.
When I started a family of my own, I never expected to struggle to find the time and energy to keep my family healthy, fit and active. Kids today exercise in a structured and organized form. There is no walking to school for my children. Even riding bikes is an effort that usually requires loading 3+ bikes into a too small car and driving someplace remote and safe to do so. In my attempts to keep my kids active, I pull my hair out with complicated daily carpools to and from a half dozen different athletic fields, and I find myself spending hours in my car.
So when these shiny little Zamzee meters entered our world, I had no idea what I was in for.
The girls started off by just increasing their “normal” athletic endeavors, such as playing basketball or jumping on the trampoline. These small improvements thrilled me. They were motivated by earning points and the little gifts that would show up in the mail. The more they became familiar with the website, the more adventurous the endeavors, and then came the discovery of the Zamzee “Challenge.”
Sometimes, I would be startled by kids running laps, up and down our longest hallway until the Challenge would end. Once, while doing the dishes, I had a parade of 3 go by the kitchen. They were brushing their teeth and doing what looked like boxing moves. It wouldn’t be at all unusual to have one or more of the girls break out in crazy, wild, unabashed dance at any given moment. Following the Challenges the girls would compete to see who accrued the most points…which would sometimes result in another Challenge to beat the lucky winner.
I remember one summer Saturday night in particular. We went to a friend’s house for a dinner party. While sitting outside, sipping my wine, the host came over and asked what all the children were doing in the yard. I looked up to find around 8 kids running teenie tiny laps on the lawn, like a dog chasing its tail, around and around and around with no end in sight. I told our host “it must be a Zamzee Challenge.” That night resulted in a lot of friends acquiring meters so their kids could try to catch up to my girls’ points.
One of the biggest and most unexpected benefits of Zamzee is that it has taught my girls how to exercise for fun. Exercise doesn’t only come in the form of a soccer game, swim practice, or a game of Wii baseball. Exercise can come in the form of chasing your sister around a tree for 5 minutes or taking your dog for a walk around the block or doing somersaults on the lawn on a nice summer day. After a few weeks of using the Zamzee meter for points, my girls started to get in the habit of exercising more frequently and started to crave the need to get their heart rate up each day, much as I crave a good run at least a few days a week. This is a lesson that is not easily learned in our society today, and a lesson that the price of a Zamzee meter paid for in spades.