Childhood obesity is a growing epidemic. According to the WHO, over 40 million children across the world were overweight in 2011, 10 million of which were in developed countries. As technology makes it increasingly easy for children to have their eyes glued to the television or their fingertips to their tablets, physical activity seems harder to come by. To address this issue, UnitedHealthCare, Konami, and Zamzee are turning to the old adage: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
The three announced their partnership at CES 2014, and plan to reduce childhood obesity through “exergaming,” an emerging concept that uses video gaming as a motivator for physical exercise. Dance Dance Revolution (DDR), a popular game by Konami, prompts players to move and step on a special gamepad to the beat of a song, and has often been praised for its innovative and fun approach to physical activity. UnitedHealthcare and Konami have been rolling out DDR: Classroom Edition to schools across the U.S. to study its impact on students’ health, well-being, and exercise habits. A second initiative is aimed at investigating the benefits of the Zamzee, a fitness wearable targeted at children. It’s placed on a shoe and measures the time and intensity of physical activity. As children exercise more with the Zamzee, they are rewarded with more “pointz,” which can be cashed-in for real-life prizes, such as Xbox consoles. The pointz and activity logs can be visualized through Zamzee’s website and apps for easy monitoring.
Approximately 60 students and their families will take part in the Zamzee study, as part of the broader childhood obesity and intervention program Join For Me, and will be evaluated for how effective the Zamzee is in promoting fitness, compared to other Join For Me participants.
From the press release:
A study conducted by HopeLab, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, showed that middle-school children using Zamzee boosted their physical activity levels by 59 percent compared to a control group. The study also showed positive impacts on LDL cholesterol and glycated hemoglobin, key biomarkers for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The Zamzee program combines a 3-D accelerometer that measures physical activity with a website that motivates kids to move more. It is used in clinical programs, schools and other group settings to help reverse the effects of sedentary behavior and improve health.