Concerned Children’s Advertisers  (CCA) today announced the development of a first-ever interactive experience  that uses kids’ daily exercise as the sole energy source for playing an online game. The project, which involves equipping youth with a digital pedometer that tracks and uploads their every step, is being tested with a pilot group of 250 kids in communities across Canada.
“CCA has a 22-year track record for developing innovative social marketing campaigns on issues that impact Canadian youth well-being,” says CCA president, Bev Deeth. “With an estimated 1 in 4 Canadian kids considered overweight or obese, this is a big problem in need of a creative solution.” Deeth explains that the game concept is the result of CCA youth research that found a strong correlation between motivation and innovation. “Kids told us that while they recognize the importance of leading a healthy, active life, this alone will not move them to take action. They need innovative programming to help motivate them.” 
The goal of the pilot (called The Living Experience) is to examine whether gaming, a favourite youth pastime, can be used as a motivator to change sedentary behaviour and measurably increase physical activity levels. Participants’ steps are tracked by a digital pedometer and then uploaded to an online game (GOGOYU), where youth create a personal avatar that uses their banked steps to travel within a virtual world. Developed by ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky Canada, the game features physical challenges, real world landmarks, and nutritional information presented in a creative way. A built-in timer limits game play to 20 minutes per day.
Participants’ activity levels will be monitored over a six-week period to gauge changes or improvements. Results of the pilot will be evaluated by researchers at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Activity.
Michelle Brownrigg, director of Physical Activity and Equity, University of Toronto, explains that existing research only examines how screens reduce physical activity levels. “There is very little research on the degree to which screen time could be a motivator for everyday physical activity, or what form this could take. This project connects what is traditionally a passive online gaming experience, to something more interactive that actually requires kids to go outside and do real exercise.”
Deeth feels the results of this initiative offer a possible solution to address the alarming rates of youth sedentary behaviour. “It’s a new way of looking at gaming that could potentially revolutionize the way youth physical activity programming is promoted and developed.”
- Only 9 per cent of boys and 4 per cent of girls meet the daily requirements of 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity per day.
- Total daily sedentary time for Canadian children and youth averages 62 per cent of their waking hours.
- Children and youth average over 40 hours of screen time per week.
Source: 2011 Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card