Earlier this month, I came across a tweet about @Zamzee – a device that enables gamified fitness for kids. Intrigued, I went to the site to check it out and learned that Zamzee is having some encouraging success getting children – even entire families – to be more active. In fact, they’ve got data that shows that people using the device are nearly 60% more active.
Naturally, I think technology like this aligns well with the broader goal of addressing childhood obesity. My immediate thought, however, was my son – who has Asperger’s – and other children on the autism spectrum who dislike organized sports. While he doesn’t face any challenges with his weight, he HATES “formal” exercise, mandatory physical activity and gym class. (This is not to say he doesn’t like to bounce on trampolines or run around playgrounds for hours on end.) His love of video games is what made me think this approach to being active would be effective.
More than a pedometer
Zamzee is much more than a pedometer. Not only does it measure your activity and the intensity of your activity, once you plug the device into your USB drive and go the site, you enter a gaming experience where you earn points, engage with the community, take challenges and earn “Zams” – a form of online currency - which can then be used to purchase items through the site! I thought something like this would surely be appealing to my son, particularly since some of the items redeemable are versions of his favorite Wii game, Mario Kart.
Although he was skeptical, I reached out to Zamzee and got him a device. Once he got onto the site, he took to it immediately, customizing his avatar and taking his first challenge within minutes. In fact, I reminded him that a favorite TV show was about to start and he passed, saying he’d rather take the challenge and start earning points!
We’ve been using the device for about a week now and I’m hopeful his interest continues — it’s great to see him being more active. Toward the end of the day, when he plugs his Zamzee in to upload his daily points, he inevitably goes for the next challenge for more points. He’ll run in place, do jumping jacks, run up and down the stairs – as my wife says, if only we can figure out how to channel this into helping with housework (mopping and sweeping earn points, too)!
I’d really like to see if this is something that could help other children on the spectrum be more active.
What do you think?