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. 
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