Some of the most important learning in childhood takes place outside the classroom, on the playground. Recent research shows that children develop important cognitive and social skills while playing, to say the least of improving their physical health. Here are just a few interesting examples of skills developing in the background while children are having fun playing.
Longer Attention Spans: In 2009, the journal Pediatrics found that students who were given more than 15 minutes of recess time on a daily basis were better behaved than those who had no recess period. When children in school take a break from learning lessons and are given the chance to play with one another, they are better able to focus on the subjects they are studying. Rather than looking at “play” as something that will take away from “study,” research shows that the two are actually mutually beneficial.
IQ Growth: Playing helps children grow their brains. In a study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, children who were exposed to enriched, play-oriented childhood programs and social interaction had higher IQs at the age of five, as opposed to children who were not given the same play-oriented opportunities. Play is so important to child development that it is even recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a fundamental right of every child. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
If this girl had a Zamzee, she’d be the one doing pushups, and she’d probably look as tired as that girl does after scrubbing floors for three hours!
Lots of people ask us if Zamzee really works. This week, we received strong validation of Zamzee’s ability to make real change in getting kids moving. HopeLab and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released new research from a six-month scientific study of Zamzee amongst middle school students across America. The results? Zamzee increased physical activity in kids by 59% and reduced biological risk factors associated with heart disease and diabetes.
Let’s explain this exciting news in a little more detail, shall we?
First off, you probably want to know more about the study. HopeLab gave Zamzee activity meters to 448 middle school kids enrolled in the study from urban, suburban and rural schools across the U.S. Half of the study participants (the control group) just had a Zamzee meter to track their physical activity, but they didn’t have access to the motivational website. The other half of the study participants had a Zamzee meter AND access to the motivational website. Bet you can guess which group had more fun!
After six months of kids moving around with Zamzee, the final Point was earned, the last upload was completed, and HopeLab crunched the numbers. And the results? The group that had access to the Zamzee website moved a whopping 59% more than the control group – which is approximately an extra 45 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week. Hold your horses, everyone, it gets even more exciting! Kids who were really at risk for sedentary behavior got moving, too. Overweight participants (BMI >25) increased their activity by 27%, and girls increased their activity by 103%! Zamzee is really working for these kids. Continue reading →
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?
By Cindy Sisson Hensley, Co-Founder of ConnectTIVTY
Using Zamzee to connect P.E. with technology and rewards
At the forefront of physical education today are discussions of swapping old gym standards like dodgeball and kickball for games that incorporate technology. Using technology in P.E. may seem counterintuitive to old-timers, but today’s youth engage more with physical games that utilize technology. And if the objective of P.E. is to help students develop a lifelong affinity for physical activity, than using innovative, motion-centric technology is one strong tool in P.E. teacher’s toolboxes that shouldn’t be overlooked.
“Typically, there is so much focus [in P.E.] on star athletes and the sports they play,” said Artie Kamiya, National P.E. Institute co-chair. “A new chapter in the battle against childhood obesity has begun by helping P.E. teachers activate all of their students with a wider variety of games, sports and exercises that can be continued through life.”
The national childhood obesity epidemic has forced experts to rethink how P.E. has been taught in the past. Today’s kids think sports are boring – 84 percent say they sometimes wish they had more fun when playing youth sports. Not surprisingly, 42 percent say they’d rather play video games than sports, and when asked why, 74 percent said video gaming is more fun. Continue reading →
It can be hard for kids – and families – to make physical activity a regular part of daily life.. But the right amount of incentives can help make physical activity both rewarding and fun.
The truth is, kids do all sorts of fantastic things spontaneously, without being rewarded for it. One morning, for example, they might declare they want to be the next JK Rowling – and then spend hours writing stories. For parents, it can be particularly encouraging to see kids remain dedicated to a worthwhile task, an important life skill for any of us.
The question is: How can we foster this type of intrinsic motivation, the impulse and determination to continue just because something feels right, to help establish patterns of healthy behavior, like regular physical activity?
“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 →
Childhood obesity touches the lives of many families throughout the United States. To help fight the problem, First Lady Michelle Obama is working to encourage families to eat more healthy foods, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed banning large size sugary drinks across the Big Apple. These initiatives have gotten a lot of media ttention recently, and for good reason–obesity is an issue of national concern, accounting for nearly 10% of US annual health care costs, or $150 billion a year. 
But sometimes the easiest way to grasp an issue is just by looking at a few simple statistics laid out in a way that helps visualize its scope and impact. Which is why we love this infographic prepared by the University of Southern California’s Master of Arts in Teaching program. Did you know that less than 25% of high schoolers take daily gym classes? We do, ’cause of this great piece of visual information. Check it out: Continue reading →