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Getting Kids that Love Videogames to Love Exercise

videogames_exercise

By Andrew Kardon from Mommy’s Busy… Go Ask Daddy

My kids love videogames. They will sit and stare at a screen for hours upon hours. Thanks to the Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360 Kinect, at least some of this game play is active. You should see the sweat I work up playing Boxing on the Wii! But I struggle to get my kids engaged in other types of physical activity, especially activity outside the house.

Recently I’ve started to incorporate video game themes into outside playtime. I’ve noticed that the more I do it, the longer my kids stay engaged in outdoor physical activity.

Take baseball for example. They love playing Mario Sluggers on the Wii. (Okay, fine. I love it too!) When I suggest we practice baseball on the driveway, Jason usually responds with, “I know how to play baseball. I play Mario Sluggers and I’m really good at it!”

Not exactly the same thing, Sport. But Jason will be a bit more amenable to playing outside if we can somehow relate it to Mario. Granted, it results in some rather… odd parts of the game.

Ryan likes to pitch a “special,” which means he pretends to throw a fireball at Jason. In reality, a “special” is a large kickball instead of a baseball. It’s not exactly America’s traditional pastime, but if it keeps them engaged and outside, I don’t care what type of balls they throw.

We use the Mario approach on neighborhood walks, too. Inevitably there is some point in the walk where Ryan’s legs will start to hurt. He’ll ask, “Are we done yet?” That’s when I pull out the video game card. Continue reading

Play as Active Jazz…Riffing on Movement with Zamzee and the Play Lab

By Cameron Yick

PlayLab

The Creation of the game Freezedisk

My name is Cameron, and I’m a senior in high school. I consider myself an active individual, as I’ve tried many sports through the years (soccer, lacrosse, and even skating!). My motivation stems from genuine enjoyment of physical activity, and I’m always looking for ways to help other people find that joy as well. Last spring, I researched the various “gamification” and “fitness logger” devices, most of which appeared to be targeted at adults. Zamzee was the first solution that appeared to target children. I wondered whether it would be motivating to teenagers too. Here’s what I’ve learned after using a meter for the past few months.

1.     Encourages physical activity

The benefits of increased physical activity cannot be overstated. Most people already know they need to move more, and yet have difficulty overcoming the inertia of being sedentary in school. Zamzee might be just the “kick” you need to start a new habit. Who doesn’t like getting recognition for their work (or play)?

I obtained a Zamzee meter at the same time a classmate who shared the meter with his sibling. He was blown away at her reaction the first evening with the meter. “It was like she ate a whole pack of Skittles candy!” She was running up and down the stairs with glee, re-plugging in the meter periodically to see how many points had been accumulated.

Although I don’t always plug the meter in daily, the meter stores data for up to a week so I can catch up on the weekends. However, the daily login bonuses give me incentive to plug in the meter every day during vacation periods. Continue reading

Self-Tracking to Improve Kids’ Health: Pew Research Report

Americans are increasingly using smartphone apps and activity trackers to monitor their health, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center. From weight-loss apps to exercise trackers to pregnancy monitors, self-tracking with technology has become a way of life for 21% of Americans adults. But what about American kids?

Research has shown that self-tracking helps improve health outcomes, particularly those related to weight control, blood pressure and blood sugar. This is great news for those of us involved in the fight against sedentary behavior and it’s associated health risks. Fitness is already the most popular type of self-tracking, capturing 38 percent of the health app market (which itself is 19 percent of the overall app market). These tools will only become more mainstream and more robust as venture capital financing for self-tracking has been strong: investments in this sector increased 20 percent from January through September 2012 alone.

Despite the strong interest in adult self-tracking, investment in the children’s market has been scarce. It’s a shame because there are huge opportunities in the kids’ sector: habits formed in childhood are strongly linked to adult behavior. Buy an adult a gym membership in January, and chances are good they’ll fall off the bandwagon by March. Teach a kid to love physical activity, and chances are good they’ll love being active for life. Continue reading

Getting Your Kids Active: How My Son Became a Football Fanatic

By Whitney from RookieMoms.com

Today my son Julian is a football fanatic, memorizing player statistics, playing catch with his dad in the backyard, and dreaming of becoming the fastest sprinter in his school. But it wasn’t always this way. Last year Julian didn’t like sports, let alone want to play them himself, or care about catching such things as the touchdown pass. Last summer Heather’s son Holden went to sports camp, and I told Julian that there are camps where you do eight sports each day, knowing pretty well he’d hate that idea. He looked at me with amazement and disgust.

At that time, he spent his recesses sitting on the bench with his female best friend discussing the detailed characteristics of their Webkinz, a set of plush animals with online lives. They enjoyed this fun virtual world they were imagining together, and I had no problem with it. He attended science camp all summer and avoided kick ball games by hanging out with the counselors, making friendship bracelets.

I’m not really a sports person myself, but I worried that he was missing out on important social skills like the ability to join group games or play catch. I didn’t have to worry for long. Last fall, everything changed. Continue reading

How to Motivate Kids to Start Exercising – and Stick With It

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Photo courtesy of L. Marie’s Flickr (http://ow.ly/do1YC)

Starting something new – like regular physical activity – is hard. In fact, the only thing harder than starting something new may be sticking with it. When it comes to getting kids and teenagers moving more, the challenge isn’t getting them off the couch just once; the real challenge is making physical activity a part of their daily lives.

It’s critically important that we find creative new ways to get kids moving more. In July, leading British medical journal “The Lancet” published research asserting that physical inactivity causes 6-10% of deaths from major NCDs (non-communicable diseases), such as type II diabetes, heart disease, and breast and colon cancers. The research linked exercise to mental wellbeing, too. Exercise fosters everything from improved sleep patterns and reduced stress, to stronger relationships, social connectedness and a sense of purpose and value. [1]

Opportunities for kids to engage in regular physical activity are often centered around youth sports. But joining a youth sports team can be a big, scary leap for kids who may be more accustomed to playing video and computer games than moving the ball down the field. Just think: kids can play videogames in the comfort and security of home, without an audience of peers watching. Game engineers design for player psychology, with just the right combination of challenges and motivators to ensure a player feels competent and successful when playing. Players advance at their own speed. Knowledge gained through failure – say, using a huge sling shot to catapult an angry bird into a green pig in a pyramid but missing the mark only just slightly – can be directly applied towards a second chance, where success is that much more likely. So the question is: what if we could use the tricks of game design to help kids who aren’t sporty experience physical activity in fun way that’s more similar to gaming, and thence less intimidating?

The good news is, we can. Borrowing gaming principles to make physical activity appealing to kids who aren’t inclined to be physically active is exactly how Zamzee was born. Our research partners at HopeLab took a close look at academic research on how to motivate regular exercise (by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, for example) and popular writing on motivation in the business world (by Daniel Pink). Then they made up a nifty acronym, CAMPR, so the rest of us can understand and remember what these researchers are talking about. Here’s a quick explanation: Continue reading

What is Gamification?

“Gamification” is getting lots of attention as a tool for engaging people in social causes, job training, even health – but what is it? And does it really work?

A simple definition of “gamification” is applying game features to experiences outside of games. Earning points, leveling up, building and discovery, unlocking special features – all the things that make Angry Birds, Minecraft and Super Mario Brothers so engaging are being used to focus people’s time and attention on real-world issues, not just entertainment. In fact, an entire industry of designers and developers is emerging to create games and “gamified” systems. The team at Bunchball has put together a Gamification 101 guide that provides a helpful overview for anyone who’s new to the topic, and the folks at Gamification Co have compiled some great information on the growing field.

But can gamification help us improve our own health and wellness? The short answer is yes. In fact, there’s a growing body of research that shows the potential for games and gamification to improve lives in a variety of ways. Game designer Jane McGonigal, who delivered a compelling TED Talk on how games make us better, has compiled a helpful list of scientific references. Our research partners at HopeLab have also published scientific data on how games can motivate healthy behavior in young people. Continue reading

Zamzee wins at the 2012 GSummit (Gamification Awards)!

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Lance Henderson, our CEO, posing with our shiny GSummit trophy!

Zamzee was awarded the 2012 Gamification Summit award for the Best Use of Gamification in Health and Wellness!

We’re pretty excited about this! As a start-up still in beta mode, it’s great to see the gamification industry recognizing us as an industry leader for our work using play to get kids and families healthy.

In addition to the GSummit Award, Zamzee has also been:

  • Recognized by President Obama as a model social enterprise at the launch of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation;
  • Named a Health Innovator by LAUNCH, a global initiative founded by NASA, USAID, the U.S. Department of State and Nike to identify and support the innovative work poised to contribute to a sustainable future and accelerate solutions to meet urgent challenges facing our society;
  • Nominated for the “Most Innovative Game” award by the 2012 Games for Change Festival;
  • Recognized by the San Mateo County Economic Development Association with the Aspiring Innovator Award.

It’s nice to get a little love!