Zamzee works! Research, iteration and positive new results

September 24, 2012

At HopeLab we are huge believers that technology can be a powerful tool to support positive health behavior and improve health in young people.  When we decide to make a product, we embark on a journey in which we engage kids in every step of the development effort, and we conduct rigorous research to determine whether the product works.  This process is iterative and time-consuming, and it does not guarantee success.  And sometimes it leads to great results.

This is one of those times!  This week HopeLab announced great study results related to our product Zamzee, an activity meter and a motivational game-based website that allows kids to view their activity levels, earn points for movement, achieve goals, and select rewards. A randomized, controlled study showed that kids using Zamzee increased their moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) by an average of 59% – or approximately 45 additional minutes of MVPA per week – compared to the control group. In addition, Zamzee had a positive effect on key biological factors associated with heart disease and diabetes, life-threatening diseases linked to sedentary behavior.

Our journey with Zamzee began 5 years ago, with the launch of the Ruckus Nation idea competition. Ruckus Nation challenged people around the world to generate ideas for products that would get kids moving, and we received more than 400 submissions from 37 countries and 41 U.S. states.  We then fanned across the U.S. for a project we called Ruckus Research, in which we asked kids and families to tell us more about the drivers and barriers to physical activity in their lives.

And then we did what we do best:  we embarked on a highly-iterative process to build a product that incorporated insights and ideas garnered from these efforts. Once we had a working prototype of Zamzee, we conducted a series of pilot studies designed to inform how we might improve the product experience to make it even more fun and effective in getting kids moving more.  And then, when we thought we had something worthy, we undertook the large-scale, six randomized controlled study to really test whether we had achieved our goals.

And we have.  Needless to say, we are delighted!

Now our goal is to get Zamzee into the hands of as many kids as possible.  To do this, HopeLab launched Zamzee as a social enterprise experiment aimed at developing scalable, sustainable ways to distribute Zamzee and increase physical activity in sedentary kids and kids at risk for sedentary behavior..  Together, Zamzee and HopeLab are partnering with schools, after school programs, community organizations, foundations, corporations, health providers, and others who share our commitment to getting kids moving.

Speaking of partners, we couldn’t have done this without the ongoing support and partnership of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funded a good portion of our work from Ruckus Nation to the Zamzee impact study.  Like HopeLab, RWJF is committed to improving health and reducing the effects of sedentary behavior in kids. We consider our partnership with RWJF to be a model of successful engagement to achieve shared goals. As we work to make Zamzee available to kids and families who might benefit most, we are also grateful for the generous support of the CIGNA Foundation, Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund, General Mills Foundation, Motorola Mobility Foundation, Wells Fargo Foundation, and the Union Bank Foundation, all of which are funding Zamzee distribution to at-risk young people.

In addition, we’ve had the privilege to collaborate with and learn from some incredible product development partners, including Big Picture Innovations, Daylight Design, Experience Lab Consulting, Firefly Design, NON-OBJECT, Nuvation, Pivotal Labs, Sequence, Speck Design and Uncommon Projects.

We’re thrilled that research demonstrates that Zamzee works to get kids moving more, and we’ve had great feedback from kids and families using the product. Want to see for yourself? Visit to get Zamzee and get moving!