Sport and fitness video games: Valid substitutes for the gym?

By: Health Local Staff Aug 29, 2011
  Article
fitness video games

There's alot of buzz around sport and fitness video games, but are they really a good workout?

There used to be two choices if you wanted to get physically fit: hit the gym or hit the road. Then came the phenomena of in-home exercise videos and equipment and the workout world was reinvented. Today we have a new choice and some say it is more fun than the traditional options: work up a sweat playing video games. More and more the public is finding new options and the ability to really spice up a dragging fitness routine.

The Platforms
The Wii and Xbox gaming systems are especially offering legitimate reasons to stay home and raise the heart rate. These pulse-pounding alternatives even include the gym, such as Gold's Gym Cardio Workout. While it is true that the first generation of fitness games did not do much for the heart rate aspect of things, the newer games are targeted specifically to deliver on the promise of 'exergaming', as it has come to be known. Wii and Xbox have broadened their scopes to include genuine equipment such as yoga balls, stair steps and resistance bands.

It is true that a game can't compete with the power of working with a personal trainer, but they do put forth a good effort. In some games, such as former Spice Girl Mel B's “Get Fit with Mel B” the video is so interactive that the game host can monitor your motions, adjust difficulty level, and suggest how to improve form. Some games come with menus and nutritional suggestions as well.

A fan of the Biggest Loser? Some players have lost big being challenged and supported by a video game bearing the same name with the same familiar faces as the television series. While not everyone will lose 65 pounds in a year of video game playing, some actually have. EA Sports games are designed to test endurance, build muscle, burn fat and include lifestyle factors and nutrition for a holistic approach.

It Doesn't Have to be Labeled as Fitness
The next generation of sports games have invigorating play and results, too, not just the games labeled specifically for fitness. Sports are well known to be fat burners and strength builders in and of themselves, from football to tennis. While such games that include a gentle swing like tennis may not be optimal, mogul skiing and boxing are something else. The Xbox's Kinect feature actually requires a full body response, measures intensity and power and demands a real-life motion for the complete effect. Combination workout and sports games, specifically from EA Sports, help add variety and challenge, but also include a biometric heart rate monitor. Some games offer free support online, some have specific global challenges, and some offer trial memberships to gyms of their namesake.

From the Start
The fitness revolution via video games started with Dance Dance Revolution, a peppy, high-stepping dance challenge that included a dance mat for monitoring footwork. From there it has been expanded to include body boards that measure balance and core movement, pressure and weight. And if a player wants to keep dancing they can always choose the power moves and Latin hip-shaking of the very popular Zumba franchise. From beginner to expert dancer, as long as you have an elevated heart rate for 30 minutes or more you are getting a beneficial cardio workout and the Zumba game certainly offers that.

Video games offer variety, challenge and fun, all of which combine to be very good for the one who doesn't hold back but embraces the workout. The limitations of the at-home gym are quickly fading and if nothing else the options will keep the around-the-block jog from getting too ho-hum. They are also a fantastic alternative when the weather is inhospitable or inclement, which is often the case in winter.

So gear up and turn on the T.V., say hi to the personal trainer on the screen who knows exactly how hard you are working and get to moving. Video games are officially good for you.

The Health Local Staff is a team of writers and experts dedicated to bringing you the latest health, nutrition and lifestyle information at www.healthlocal.ca.