If your roommates or kids got a Kinect or a Wii for Christmas, it’s likely that you haven’t seen much of them since the New Year. Because, between your resolution to be healthier and work out more, and their resolution to beat every level of every game, your interests may not be quite lining up…but they could be, if you had the right games. Fitness-based video games may seem like something to scoff at, but they can actually be a pretty great addition to your exercise routine, and may have the potential to help curb the obesity epidemic.
Though skepticism about how a video game could possible double for a workout abouts, the fact is that gaming consoles like Nintendo’s Wii and Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox 360 are using powerful technology that any and all fitness enthusiasts should be jumping on. Able to read the position of the body, and, with the help of a few add-ons, the weight distribution of the feet, these tools have the potential to read motions, incorporate movement, and mimic the guidance of a personal trainer, yogi, or class instructor, without the high price or crowded classes. And they come in all sorts of varieties.
Games for Kinect, for example, include Zumba dance workouts, as well as a Biggest Loser-inspired game featuring Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper, and full-bodied sports like football and tennis, while the Wii boasts yoga by Deepak Chopra, as well as Wii Fit, which has calisthenics, simulated skiing, pilates, boxing, and even a “personal trainer” feature, which allows for food and nutrition tracking.
Of course, a video game can’t every really replace a human being when it comes to instruction, because, you know–it’s not sentient, and can’t tell when you’re on the verge of injuring yourself. It also can’t do the one thing that a personal trainer is really good at–and that’s also a pretty major pitfall of working out, alone, with a gaming console: it can’t push you. And with these games, which do have the potential to be very challenging, particularly if you’re able to incorporate weights (with the Kinect, which uses no controller), or purchase some of the add-ons, like the 2 pound arm weight attachments that Wii offers, an additional push or motivational voice to really get you going may be needed. Like a lot of exercise, working out with a video game is as difficult as you make it for yourself. But if you’re prepared to really go for it (and look a little silly doing it), working out with a game can be sweaty, educational, and super-fun.
These consoles present huge potential–not just for those who love to work out, but those who would otherwise lead a sedentary lifestyle, but who enjoy the games which require them to get up and move. Even an extra hour of light-to-moderate activity may be enough to inspire couch potatoes and serious gamers–particularly when they start to notice how much better they feel. Turning video games into a fun cardio activity is a huge step toward reducing childhood obesity, if only by making indoor exercise so much more enjoyable.
Purchasing a console for the sole purpose of working out may not be the best idea just yet–at least, not until more folks jump on this snowballing trend. But for those who have kids or roommates that like to game, or are, themselves, interested in video games, incorporating fitness and movement-based programs can be a great way to sneak in some extra workout time, without having to slog to the gym or cajole the little ones into going outside.