Getting the family to have fun and exercise together is a great way to make a healthy lifestyle change for your family, and I was happy to talk about this idea at length with Nina Gannes, content and social media manager for Zamzee. The company is doing a lot to help children get moving so they can help entire families get healthy. But rather than tell you in my words, I thought I would let her tell you the Zamzee story.
A Healthier Michigan: First of all, what’s a Zamzee?
Zamzee: Zamzee is a game that gets kids moving. Like a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Zamzee has two parts: the Zamzee activity meter and the Zamzee motivational website. Kids track their activity by wearing a Zamzee meter, which measures the intensity of their movement. Zamzee.com is the secret sauce that makes moving fun. Kids can create an avatar, level up based on their activity, take movement challenges and make friends. They also earn rewards for moving – everything from tech gadgets, gaming consoles, Lip Smackers, gift cards and donations to charity.
AHM: Wow. How did you come up with something as awesome as that?
Zamzee: Zamzee actually has been in the works for a number of years. It was born at HopeLab, which is a nonprofit that harnesses the power and appeal of technology to improve kids’ health. Zamzee was created to help address the rise in sedentary behavior among kids.
Declining levels of physical activity is a big problem in the United States. In fact, physical inactivity is linked to all sorts of noncommunicable diseases, like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. There are psychological consequences to sedentary behavior too – like increased anxiety and even depression. This is bad news because 80% of 13-15 year olds aren’t getting the recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity they need each day. Physical activity begins declining around ages 9-15, right when kids are forming important lifelong habits.
HopeLab wanted to come up with a creative way to reverse this trend. From their initial concept, the Zamzee product and business were born and are rooted in the belief that technology and gaming can help today’s kids experience physical activity in a way that feels more fun and relevant to their lifestyles. Zamzee is a social enterprise: our core mission and the foundation of our business is getting kids active.
AHM: And is it working so far? What kind of success have you seen with kids and families?
Zamzee: It is working! Kids using Zamzee move almost 60% more than a control group. We know this from a six month research study conducted across middle school students by HopeLab and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Even better, at-risk groups in this study (middle school girls and kids with a high BMI) also moved significantly more than a control group, and this impact persisted for at least 6 months. Needless to say, those results have really inspired us to make Zamzee available to as many kids and families as possible.
AHM:Why do you think kids are staying so engaged with Zamzee?
Zamzee: Well, first of all, lots of feedback from kids was incorporated into Zamzee’s development. They even came up with ideas that inspired our product design, through an idea competition called Ruckus Nation. But Zamzee also has a lot of psychological research behind it. Our philosophy is that you can kickstart physical activity through rewards, or extrinsic motivation. And then you can use game mechanics to foster a positive mindset and build a community to instill intrinsic motivation and use that as the foundation for lasting behavior change.
AHM: Do you find Zamzee working in the real world? Do you have any great success stories about kids using Zamzee?
Definitely. There are several thousand kids using Zamzee, and lots of parents, too! In fact, over 20% of our users are adults.
Every day kids write Zamzee testimonials about why they love Zamzee. These testimonials are straight from the kid experts – you can tell by the creative spelling and preponderance of exclamation points! We also hear really sweet stories from parents telling us about how Zamzee has helped their family embrace physical activity in a fun way. This Zamzee review from a mom named Cyndi Lawrence particularly stands out. After trying dozens of different activities to get her daughters healthy, Zamzee proved to be the one thing that finally got the family excited and invigorated about taking health matters into their own hands.
Photo Credit: Zamzee