Frolic App Helps Girls Become More Active, Develop Healthy Habits

A Duquesne University School of Nursing professor's new app that helps girls become more physically active has won first prize in a national competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Co-created by Dr. Melissa Kalarchian, associate dean for research in the School of Nursing, Frolic inspires girls ages 7-12 with inclusive and active play options and encourages parents to support their daughters' healthy habits.

"About one of every three girls struggles with obesity," Kalarchian said. "Play can serve as a great way to boost physical activity and carries additional benefits for girls, such as socialization. By becoming more active, Frolic can help girls develop healthy habits into adulthood."

Kalarchian and Carnegie Mellon University Learning Science Professor Dr. Jessica Hammer created the app in response to the Shape of Health-An Obesity Prevention Game challenge sponsored by HHS' Office of Women's Health. Challenge participants were asked to create an interactive video game with a focus on obesity prevention or weight control that also shares positive health messages for women and girls. The researchers' work is featured in Obesity: A Research Journal.

"Physical activity among children and especially girls has been inadequate," Kalarchian said. "Only 10% of girls meet the U.S. government's recommended daily activity guidelines as compared to nearly 30% of boys."

The Frolic app initiates time for play by sending a notification to a parent's phone. If it is a good time to play, the child can then input some basic information about her surroundings, including if she will be playing indoors or outdoors, the size of the space available, friends who may accompany her and their abilities to move quickly.

Situational data gathered each time a girl can play helps Frolic recommend a few appropriate game ideas. Each game recommendation comes with step-by-step illustrated instructions for girls of all abilities.

"Many mobile games focused on physical activity tend to be screen heavy," Kalarchian said. "Frolic actually moves girls away from the phone or laptop so they can play without being in front of a screen."

Frolic also is designed to encourage parents to support healthy habits in their daughters. Research shows that parents are less likely to encourage daughters to be physically active compared to the encouragement they show their sons. The app displays their daughter's activity data and encourages parents to have productive conversations with their girls about physical activity.

Development of the Frolic app reflects Duquesne's commitment to promoting health equity and its legacy of working to improve health in the region.

Frolic is available for free in the App Store.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The University's academic programs, community service, and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim. 

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