Technology is a big part of kids’ lives these days, from the classroom to playtime. But the digital revolution hasn’t yet become mainstream in kids’ sports and exercise. Especially for kids who don’t like moving, you have to wonder: could there be a better way to use technology to inspire kids to get active?
Right now, youth exercise is pretty closely correlated with traditional youth sports teams. That makes sense because, in the United States, 75% of boys and 69% of girls play organized sports. But what about those other kids, the 25% of boys and 31% of girls who don’t participate in sports teams? Right now, we don’t have many good options to cater to these kids and get them moving. Moreover, even if a kid participates in sports when they are younger, they don’t always stick with the team when they get older. This video by the Women’s Sports Foundation makes a compelling and scary case for why girls, in particular, keep leaving the game.
Kids need to learn healthy habits of physical activity at a young age, and they need to stick with physical activity throughout adolescence to have healthy adults lives. When kids become sedentary, they increase their risk of lifelong health problems like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The impetus to keep kids active is why HopeLab Foundation (Zamzee’s parent non-profit) decided to research why so many kids quit sports teams and stop moving around ages 9 to 15. HopeLab wanted to better understand which kids were most at risk for physical INactivity, and what we could do to help motivate them to stick with an active lifestyle.
HopeLab discovered that certain types of kids are most at risk for being sedentary. They also realized that lots of kids who don’t like organized sports love using technology and playing games. As they brainstormed possible interventions to get kids moving, HopeLab began developing Zamzee – a technology-based “game that gets kids moving.”
Zamzee more closely resembles video gaming than it does sports teams. Here’s the key difference: on Zamzee, your offline movement powers your online adventure. For example, to earn enough Zamz (Zamzee’s online currency) to change your avatar, you’ll have to start a Zamzee Challenge then get off the computer and dance for 30-45 minutes. Then you race back to the computer, plug in your Zamzee and see if you passed the Challenge and earned your currency.
Zamzee is a new type of exercise game. It meets kids where they already are – at the computer – and fosters the behavior that will get them active and healthy. It’s Moving 2.0 for the digital generation, and it’s setting a precedent for how we can use technology to get kids active.
 U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division, 1 July 2009, available from http://www.census.gov, Internet; accessed November 15, 2010. Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 1 May 2010, available from http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/health/index.html, Internet; accessed 15 November 2010.