Study: Innovative game intervention increases at-risk kids' physical activity levels by 39 per cent

TORONTO, Dec. 3, 2013 /CNW/ - Results of the second phase of a pilot study released today by Concerned Children's Advertisers (CCA), point to a promising finding in the search for effective in-school programming to help increase physical activity among kids.  The study took place in northern Ontario communities with some of the highest childhood obesity rates.  Findings confirm the effectiveness of an online game powered by kids' daily activity, as a motivator to change sedentary behaviour and increase physical activity levels. Participants took an average of 12,312 steps per day during the game play period, representing a daily step increase of 39 per cent.

These results come on the heels of the recent launch of Active at School, a coalition of over 60 organizations, including CCA, aimed at increasing Canadian students' physical activity levels. "This intervention aligns perfectly with the goals of Active at School," explains CCA president, Bev Deeth.  "Any initiative that moves inactive kids to exceed both the national average daily step count (11,250 steps) and the recommended daily step count of 12,000, is a step in the right direction."  Deeth confirms the organization is in talks with a major school board to integrate the online game into existing physical activity programming.

The project involved equipping children with a digital pedometer that tracks and uploads their daily steps to an online game, where they create a personal avatar that uses their banked steps to travel within a virtual world. For the duration of the study, participants were divided into five groups according to average daily step counts, ranging from lowest to highest.

Forty-three per cent of the most inactive boys and 62 per cent of the most inactive girls moved up at least one step count category during game play.  Twenty-five per cent of girls moved to the highest step count category of 14,500 steps or more per day, up from 2 per cent prior to game play.

University of Toronto Health Promotion program director and researcher, Charlotte Lombardo, evaluated the results on CCA's behalf.  She says the findings present a real opportunity to move the needle on kids' physical activity.  "The positive impact of this project on both boys and girls points to its efficacy as a viable in-school intervention, especially for kids in hard to reach communities with less access to organized sports."

For research highlights and to view the game trailer: cca-arpe.ca.

About the Pilot

The pilot project (The Living Experience) featured the first ever pedometer-powered online game (GOGOYU).  In May 2012, 226 Canadian children were provided with a digital pedometer that tracked their steps over a six-week period, to gauge changes in activity levels.  Participants uploaded these steps to GOGOYU, and created an avatar that used the banked steps to visit famous landmarks, engage in physical challenges, and access nutrition facts. Although overall step counts increased for both girls and boys, phase one findings revealed a significant improvement in physical activity rates during game play among the least active girls.  In April 2013, thanks to a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, an agency of the Government of Ontario, CCA implemented phase two of this project, with 131 children in northern Ontario communities with higher than average childhood obesity rates. The goal was to evaluate whether this kind of health intervention in these communities would produce similar findings.

About CCA

Concerned Children's Advertisers (CCA) is a national not-for-profit that works with educators, issue experts, and media to improve kids' social, physical & mental well-being. Along with its 20 member companies, the organization promotes and seeks innovative solutions to prevalent issues that impact youth, including healthy active living, media literacy, bullying, and mental health.

SOURCE: Concerned Children's Advertisers

For further information:

To arrange interviews with the University of Toronto research team or CCA spokespeople: Alex Dunsmuir, ümlaut marketing+communications t: 416-236-2368 m: 647-244-2475 alex@umlautmarketing.com

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Concerned Children's Advertisers

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